DIGITAL DIVIDE IN EDUCATION AND INCREASE OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL STUDENTS
Project Connect started out of a need that was expressed by many UNICEF partners and UNICEF Country Offices, which was the need to know where schools are and how connected they are to inform programmes around education, health and emergencies.
We first looked at countries that were doing new work with connecting their populations, in particular, with providing their young populations with access to information and opportunity. For example, we studied the distance learning system from the Media Center in the Brazilian Amazonas or the e-government system in Estonia. They provided insights and lessons to learn from in order to help connect every school in the world. We realized that the first step that many of these countries had to go through was to map the exact locations of the schools together with some additional information about them. In fact, often, these records don’t exist, are incomplete or have errors in them. To solve this problem, Project Connect was created.
Project Connect was initially founded through an investment by Greg Wyler (Founder and Executive Chairman of OneWeb), who generously put forward the first financing to create a platform that would bring together the technology industry, academia and NGOs to work with UNICEF to create the first version of the mapping. The board included Larry Adler, John Dick and the US Fund for UNICEF represented by Christopher Fabian. During this first year of the process, the management team was led by Sara Jacobs. Given the success of Project Connect in its first year, the high interest from governments and UNICEF Country Offices and UNICEF’s Ventures team’s work in the application of Machine Learning and advanced data modelling, we decided to take the project forward and put it within UNICEF’s main operations - which will allow it not only to continue, but to grow and better achieve its mission.
VEHICLE FOR CHANGE
Project Connect continues as a venture inside UNICEF’s Office of Innovation within Magic Box, a platform for partners to come and connect their datasets and expertise to better understand the situation of children and youth, and to create insights that will help governments and other humanitarian actors improve their programmes around education, health and emergencies.