Ericsson and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have agreed to a global partnership that will provide internet connectivity mapping to educational institutions in Nigeria and 34 other countries.
Mr Sean Cryan, the Country Manager of Ericsson: the Swedish multinational networking and Communications Company in Nigeria, said that the project with the theme: “Mapping school internet connectivity’’ would help to bridge the digital divide by providing internet access for the next generation.
“We are planning to share the list of the first 10 countries in the fourth quarter of this year, while the remaining countries will be communicated in 2021,’’ he said.
He added that the project would start before the end of 2023, adding that the initial take-off would also depend on where their teams would be allowed to travel and operate safely.
According to him, digital transformation, undoubtedly, impacts various sectors and organisations by helping them leverage on beneficial opportunities that come with new technologies.
“Mapping the internet connectivity landscape in schools and their surrounding communities will be of great importance, given its vital role.
“Connectivity mapping is a primary source for providing children with the necessary means and capabilities to exploit the opportunities provided by the advantages of digital learning,” he said.
He said that the partnership falls within the framework of the “Giga” initiative that was launched in 2019 by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in cooperation with UNICEF.
Cryan added that it had the primary goal of connecting all schools on the planet to the internet.
The country manager also highlighted the benefits of mapping to governments and the private sector.
He said that it would help them design and deploy digital interventions to support uninterrupted learning for children and young people.
He stressed the notion that some internet users employed the use of the facility from their homes while many others use it at school.
“The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimates that over 53 per cent of the world’s population used the internet in 2019, up from under 17 per cent in 2005.
“Although, we have broad statistics on internet usage, mapping will help us to understand how access by schools fits into that and where the gaps are.
“Ericsson’s vision calls for us to connect the unconnected because we believe that access to communication is a basic human need.
“We also believe that people in the rural parts of Africa will benefit greatly from mobile connectivity, which greatly increases access to information and services that support health, education and small businesses.’’
According to Cryan, digital connectivity is one of the ‘Global Breakthroughs’ which the Giga project is looking to address.
“The partnership between UNICEF and Ericsson will take the first vital step in mapping and understanding the connecting gap,” he said.
Cryan also speaking on the scope of the project, said that Ericsson had committed resources for data engineering and data science capacity to accelerate the mapping.
He said that the company would specifically assist with the collection, validation, analysis, monitoring and visual representation of real-time school connectivity data.
“Ericsson is the first private sector partner to join this initiative and does so as a Global UNICEF Partner for School Connectivity Mapping.
“Collected data will enable governments and the private sector to design and deploy digital solutions that enable learning for children and young people.
“Additionally, Ericsson will engage its extensive customer base in the Giga initiative to further advance this mission,” he said.
The Country Manager said that the total value of the partnership between Ericsson and UNICEF would be determined overtime, adding that they were yet to arrive at the amount of time and resources needed to support the project.
He also said that both organisations were still working together to assess the locations where the programme would likely have the greatest impact.
He said that this would afford them the opportunity of taking the advantage of the information, choice and opportunities that it would bring.
The country manager also added that Ericsson had been working on how to provide communication services and solutions to challenges facing ICT users since its inception.
He said that this had been across network segments so as to make the operations of telecom service providers more efficient and bolster their digital transformation.
According to Ericsson Mobility Report, mobile broadband subscription penetration in the Sub-Saharan Africa region is approximately 30 percent and is forecasted to reach around 50 percent by the end of 2025.
Also, a Mobile Economy 2018 report by Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) noted that the 49 percent mobile subscription of Nigeria’s 196 million people is expected to reach 55 per cent by 2025.
Cryan also spoke on the strategic importance of Nigeria to the projects.
He said that with Nigeria currently holding one of the highest numbers of mobile subscriptions in Sub-Saharan Africa, superior network performance is imperative.
According to him, Ericsson is committed to partnering local service providers in meeting the growing demands of subscribers for an enriched broadband experience.
Cryan also said that the importance of establishing a high quality mobile broadband service in Nigeria cannot be overestimated.
“It opens up opportunities for people to improve their productivity locally and fuels new businesses which feed into boosting the economic growth of the country.
“In collaboration with Ericsson, local service providers have rolled out an LTE network that has had a significant impact on the user experience in Nigeria.
“Download and upload speeds in the completed areas are exceptional and customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Nigerians can now experience a truly world-class data service with faster web browsing and downloads,” he said.
Furthermore, the Country Manager said that for the company to deliver sustainable impact, it had begun to collaborate with various partners to facilitate societal impact and provide equal opportunities.