Working with UNICEF to accelerate school connectivity mapping

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Why we’re working together

In January 2022, IHS Towers and UNICEF announced a three-year international partnership to support the Giga initiative’s objective to map internet connectivity of all schools worldwide. Giga is a joint initiative of UNICEF’s Office of Innovation and ITU’s Telecommunications Development Bureau.

Currently, more than a third of the world’s population has no regular access to the Internet. This digital divide, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, results in exclusion and fewer opportunities for young people to learn and fulfil their potential. It also means that millions of children leave school without any digital skills, making it more difficult for them to thrive in local and global economies.


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What we are doing

Understanding the global school connectivity landscape is a critical step towards Giga’s ambition of connecting every school to the internet, and every child to learning and development opportunities. IHS Towers’ three-year partnership with UNICEF, which includes a commitment of US $4.5 million and contribution-in-kind in four IHS markets, will strengthen Giga’s work to map schools and their connectivity levels on an open-source map, using machine learning and satellite imagery. With the support of its partners, Giga has so far mapped more than one million schools in 44 countries. The data identifies gaps in infrastructure and helps develop strong business cases encouraging investors to finance connectivity in the hardest-to-reach communities.

“Connecting schools to the internet can fast track young people’s access to educational resources and opportunities and help drive wider social and economic benefits for whole communities and countries,” said Thomas Davin, UNICEF Director of Innovation. “As COVID-19 continues to amplify inequalities in access to learning, we welcome IHS Towers’ generous and timely commitment to our ambitious goals.”

In addition to the company’s financial contribution, IHS will support Giga by providing relevant tower data, thereby accelerating Giga’s work to identify which schools are connected to the internet and those which are not. IHS’ data will also support Giga’s analysis on the most appropriate technology to connect offline schools, as well as the potential cost of connectivity, to present to public and private investors.

What we hope to achieve

The IHS Towers and UNICEF partnership will support Giga’s aim of connecting every school in the world to the internet by 2030, and providing every young person with access to information, opportunity, and choice. Giga and its partners have already helped over 1 million students get access to the Internet.

“At IHS Towers we are committed to accelerating mobile and internet connectivity across the emerging markets. We believe that better connections lead to better opportunities, and that education is key to social and economic mobility.

IHS is already a dedicated UNICEF partner in four of our five African markets, but this is our first company-wide partnership, and I could not be prouder of its objectives. By connecting schools in some of the world’s poorest, and most remote regions, the Giga team are enabling a wealth of opportunities for the next generation. We look forward to working with Giga’s current and future partners to provide children with fundamental learning opportunities.”
Sam Darwish, IHS Towers Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

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