Connecting schools to internet might boost GDP: EIU report

Published : 13 Jul 2021 09:25 PM

An Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) report has found that connecting schools to the internet in nations with low broadband connectivity has the potential to increase GDP by up to 20 percent.

With education systems worldwide hit by the pandemic, more than 190 countries have shut down schools. Nevertheless, connectivity at home allowed at least 100 million out of the 1.6 billion at-home students across the world to continue learning. 

The temporary closures have emphasized the importance of connecting schools and reducing the educational and digital divide to support learning.

Access to the internet in schools can also help shape students into well-educated, innovative, and understanding beings of society, leading to economic development and job creation.

EIU analysis done by both the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index (2017), and the World Bank Human Capital Index (2017) show that for every 10 percent increase in school connectivity in a country, GDP per capita could increase by 1.1 percent- a clear correlation between the two variables.

While the global internet penetration rate has increased substantially from 17 percent in 2005, it is still at a modest mark of just over 50 percent in 2021 and is not uniform across regions.

For instance, in Niger, the report finds that improvements in school connectivity to Finnish levels could increase GDP per capita by almost 20 percent.

The report sponsored by Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC)also recommends that public, private and NGO sector leaders around the world collaborate to make internet connectivity a global reality for school children. As a result, Ericsson today appeals to this audience to further aid Giga (a school connectivity initiative founded by UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union) through actions such as: funding, data sharing, technological expertise and forming sustainable business models for connectivity. 

Ericsson has forged a three-year partnership with Unicef to help map the current school connectivity gap across 35 countries.

According to a press release, Ericsson’s EIU report, “Connecting Learners: Narrowing the Educational Divide”, has declared Giga’s goal to connect all schools and their surrounding communities by 2030 as achievable.

Heather Johnson, vice president of sustainability and corporate responsibility of Ericsson, says: “When Giga was announced, we immediately understood the positive impact it could deliver- bridging the digital divide across the globe, enabling children with brighter futures.”

She adds: “The report clarifies that partnership between business leaders, public sector leaders and NGOs can positively impact this issue. We encourage all stakeholders to read the report and join the Giga initiative.”

Charlotte Petri-Gornitzka, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director of Partnerships, says: “Together, we’re identifying connectivity gaps in communities. It is key to collaborate across sectors to connect schools and provide quality digital learning for all young individuals.”

The EIU report shows how school connectivity, which leads to improved education and enhanced career opportunities for children, can steer towards higher incomes, better health, and improved overall wellbeing, supporting wider community development and economic growth beyond children.

Other potential school connectivity benefits highlighted by the report include: increasing quality of education, better access to emerging fields such as artificial intelligence, creating a more productive and innovative workforce, job creation, and driving economic growth