Huawei’s Deputy Chairman, Ken Hu, has outlined its vision and action plan for education under its digital inclusion initiative, ‘TECH4ALL,’ at the Global Education Webinar titled, ‘Driving Equity and Quality with Technology,’ emphasizing that “connecting schools and skills development are two key ways for Huawei to improve equitable and quality education.”
The webinar was joined by leaders and experts from UNESCO, GSMA, the Ministry of National Education of Senegal, universities and educational institutions, as well as the private sector.
Digital technology plays an important role in education. However, 50 per cent of the world’s population still does not have Internet access, and many people lack the skills needed to use digital devices.
As a result, the digital divide in education continues to widen.
Hu said: “We believe that everyone, everywhere has the right to education and the equality of opportunity it brings. As a technology company, Huawei wants to help with connectivity, applications and skills by focusing on two important areas of connecting schools and developing digital skills respectively.”
According to a statement made available to Financial Street, in terms of connecting schools, Huawei will help to provide access to high-quality educational resources such as digital curriculums and e-learning applications, and teacher and student training by connecting schools to the Internet with partners.
In South Africa, Huawei recently launched the DigiSchool project in partnership with an operator, Rain, and educational non-profit organization, Click Foundation, aiming to connect 100 urban and rural primary schools over the next year, in addition to the 12 already connected through 5G technology.
“Through digital education, we not only address the literacy crisis in the country but also provide young children with the digital skills needed for future success,” Nicola Harris, CEO, Click Foundation added at the webinar.
In terms of digital skills development, Huawei said it planned to provide digital skills training for vulnerable groups in remote areas, especially female students, through projects such as DigiTruck in a program called ‘Skills on Wheels.’
Since the launch of DigiTruck in Kenya at the end of last year, it has provided training for more than 1,500 young adults and teachers in rural areas and Huawei hoped to replicate the programme in France, the Philippines, and other countries in the next two years.
“These all solar-powered, mobile classrooms with wireless broadband access can reach even the most remote communities.” Olivier Vanden Eynde, CEO of Close the Gap, key partner of DigiTruck, said.
Meanwhile, Huawei has stepped up its efforts through its TECH4ALL initiative in support of UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition, set up to tackle the global challenges impacting education due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
For instance, the company joined forces with the UNESCO Coalition and the Ministry of National Education of Senegal to support the country to carry out distance learning during the outbreak.
Local teachers are provided with connectivity, digital devices and skills training which will benefit more than 100,000 students.
“This crisis has changed the face and future of education. It has demonstrated how fast change can happen through partnership, when expertise and resources are matched up with local needs to ensure learning continuity, especially for the most marginalized students,” said Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education.
At the same time, the Huawei ICT Academy launched its ‘Learn ON’ programme in early April, aiming to address the educational needs of university-based ICT talent affected by the pandemic.
The programme brings together global university partners and offers college cooperation incentive funds, which can be used for online courses and examinations, online experiments, etc., and provides more than 130 Massively Open Online Courses resources, covering cutting-edge technology fields such as artificial intelligence, big data, 5G, and the Internet of Things.
The Global Education Webinar focused on the two topics of ‘Distance Learning for Better Education Continuity’ and ‘ICT Innovation for Inclusive Learning.’
The best practices and experience of China, France, Luxembourg, Senegal, South Africa and other countries were shared and discussed and Borhene Chakroun, Director of UNESCO’s Policy and Lifelong Learning Systems, reiterated that “with at least 63 million primary and secondary teachers affected, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for developing teachers’ capacity to effectively engage in distance learning, which will become part of the education and training provision in the future.”
In addition, participants reached a consensus that public-private cooperation is the key to promoting inclusive education by digital technology.
“Many lessons have been learnt this year in low- and middle-income countries, adapting services to address the needs of users and responding to the impact of the global pandemic by evolving business and critical partnerships. The GSMA and the mobile industry are supporting the current situation and committed to long-term support of the SDGs in the era of ethical leadership.” added by Stephanie Lynch-Habib, Chief Marketing Officer, GSMA.
To achieve greater digital inclusion in the education field, it requires cross-sector efforts by governments, industry organizations, educational institutions, and technology companies to contribute their respective experiences and resources.
This will accelerate the achievement of SDG 4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all) by 2030.