Following an open “call for partners” by Mr Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, the Government of France announced that it would provide 500,000 Euros in matching funding to connect schools in at least three Sub-Saharan countries (three schools each) in Africa. The Government of Portugal also announced that it would provide laptops and related project support for ten interested countries (one school per country) through its eSchool International programme. And industry partners Microsoft and Intel announced their intention to provide laptops, computer lab solutions, and software licenses for courseware.
The Connect a School, Connect a Community initiative was launched last autumn by ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Tour with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Mr Al Basheer.
Dr Tour told participants at the Ministerial Round Table that Connect a School, Connect a Community is part of ITU’s overall ‘Build on Broadband’ campaign. “Our objective is not only to expand access to broadband connectivity, but more importantly we need to launch innovative applications in areas such as health, education and commerce to help stimulate progress towards achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals.”
In his remarks, Mr Al Basheer Al Morshid highlighted the important role of public-private collaboration. He thanked partners for their contributions and said that “we welcome additional partners ready to follow your lead and dedicate resources to this important challenge.” Mr Al Basheer Al Morshid also encouraged administrations to develop their own national school connectivity plans, leveraging public and private resources for implementation, and offered the expertise of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau to help in this important task.
The Ministerial Round Table followed a High Level Seminar held on Sunday, 23 May. Delegates reviewed legal, policy and regulatory measures to stimulate school connectivity, such as utilizing funding for public works, adding requirements to connect schools into 3G licenses, or initiatives using Universal Service Funds. Participants also explored how connected schools could be used as platforms to provide ICT services to other groups in the community, including women, persons with disabilities, and indigenous persons.
As part of the Connect a School, Connect a Community initiative, ITU has identified and compiled best practices on policies, regulation, low cost computing devices and practical experiences in connecting schools, including establishing school-based community ICT centres.
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