Elvis was lucky. About 364 million
young people between the ages of 15 and 24 across the globe do not have any access to the internet at school. They are disconnected — cut off from the world of information that the rest of us take for granted. While their peers in wealthier, more connected locales are learning programming and studying how to create applications using artificial intelligence, these children are being left behind.
And what will these disconnected children do when they reach adulthood, facing a workplace in which digital skills are woven into most jobs and livelihoods?
Every month, 10 million young people reach working age. If the digital divide continues, these young people will not learn skills for future work. A booming global population will be matched by an equally booming youth unemployment crisis.
We need to make sure every child has a chance at the best possible education. That includes having access to the internet at school. It's a critical step in bridging a growing digital divide and providing 21st Century skills for a 21st Century labor force.
UNICEF wants to make this more than just a Utopian dream. With Project Connect
, UNICEF has embarked on an initiative to map all the schools in the world using data science, satellite imagery and machine learning. Using real-time data, governments and network providers can identify the geolocation of schools that don't have access to the internet. These maps can then be used with partners to connect schools.
So far, Project Connect has mapped
more than 800,000 schools in 10 countries. During this process we found that, in Colombia and Brazil alone, 4 million children attend the 22,780 schools and 12,696 schools, respectively, without internet connectivity. Likewise, in Sierra Leone, we have mapped that about 112,000 students go to schools in locations without mobile phone coverage or internet connectivity.