The Concept

Connecting all primary, secondary and post-secondary schools to ICTs by 2015 was one of the targets set by world leaders at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). Connect a School, Connect a Community is a public-private partnership launched by ITU to promote broadband Internet connectivity for schools in developing countries around the world.  Why focus on schools?  Because connected schools can serve as community ICT centres for disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, including women and girls. They can also serve as hubs to support indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities.  So connected schools will serve not only the youth and children who attend them but also the broader communities in which they are located.

The objective is that children and youth attending these connected schools will have improved access to the latest information and communication technologies (ICTs).  These centres will leverage ICTs to improve the economic and social development of their communities by providing ICT-based training on basic life skills (language literacy, numeracy and basic ICT literacy) along with training that develops business and ICT-specialized skills. 

The goal of this online platform is to promote understanding and awareness among government decision makers, donors and partners on the need for coordinated policies, regulations and practices that promote school connectivity and community benefits. 

Through the Connect a School, Connect a Community initiative, ITU and its partners have created:

1.The Toolkit of Best Practices and Policy Advice that identifies and compiles best practices that can be used by policy makers and regulators to connect schools to broadband Internet networks;

2.A repository of Training Materials Applications and Tools that can be used by connected schools and their community ICT centres.

We won’t be stopping there; next steps include:

1.Further development and expansion of related online content; 

2.Raising global political awareness among education and communication policy makers and regulators in the development of national policies and strategies to connect schools as community ICT centres; 

3.Assisting ITU Member States in developing national school ICT connectivity plans and implementing targeted assistance projects; and, 

4.Providing capacity building through regional training on using connected schools as community centres.

Information about the events and activities above will be posted on this website.

 ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun Touré and Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau, Mr Sami Al Basheer launch the Connect a School – Connect a Community initiative with the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and almost 300 youth from some 150 countries from around the world during ITU TELECOM World Youth  Forum in October 2009.

Key Challenges

Promoting connectivity to enable schools to serve as community broadband ICT centres involves a series of critical issues which must be addressed holistically. These include understanding and implementing technology; related policy and regulation; cost analysis; access to end-user equipment such as low cost computing devices; and basic ICT training for teachers.  It also includes engaging with members of the local community; providing a safe online and physical environment for children; providing assistive technologies and an accessible environment for persons with disabilities; and developing and accessing content for education.

While some players have developed best practices related to one or more of these inter-related issues, for example, teacher training and cost studies for connecting schools, there is no comprehensive, “one stop shop” bringing together all best practices systematically and addressing all of the inter-related layers of the school connectivity ecosystem. Moreover, some earlier school connectivity initiatives were designed to promote dial-up or low-speed Internet access rather than broadband Internet access and many countries have yet to develop any school connectivity programmes at all.

For all of these reasons, it is timely to develop a comprehensive online Toolkit identifying best practices related to all layers of the school connectivity ecosystem that will serve to inform education and ICT government leaders as well as international/regional organizations, development agencies, NGOs and the private sector seeking to connect schools as community ICT centres.