In November 2020, Global Young Academy (GYA) Co-Chair Dr. Anindita Bhadra discussed with the IHRN the GYA’s concerns regarding the digital education divide, with a particular focus on the shift to online education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Bhadra, based in India, described how the adverse effects of unequal access to education – a challenging issue evident long before the onset of the COVID-19 public health crisis – have been exacerbated by the pandemic, including in her own country.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has released a report, Remote Learning Reachability, which highlights deep regional inequalities in access to remote education that present a daunting challenge during school closures prompted by the COVID-19 public health crisis. The report, based on data from 100 countries, indicates that at least one third of the world’s schoolchildren have been unable to access remote learning during school closures associated with the pandemic.
In remarks at a high-level meeting on "Generation Unlimited — Connecting Half the World to Opportunities", UN Secretary-General António Guterres championed investment in education and digital technology as a means to create opportunities for the world's youth. Generation Unlimited is a multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to ensure all young people are in school, training or employment by 2030. The Secretary-General described The UN’s Youth 2030 project and Generation Unlimited as strategies for tackling gaps, fragilities and inequalities facing children and youth, particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 global health crisis.
A report from UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) assesses children's and young people's access to the internet in their homes, a crucial need at a time when upwards of 1.6 billion children have been impacted by school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Highlighting long-standing inequities among and within countries that have impacted the digital divide and the right to education, UNICEF and ITU have jointly launched Giga, a global initiative aiming to connect every school to the internet and every young person to information, opportunity and choice.
The Ventures Team in UNICEF’s Office of Innovation, working in partnership with Project Connect, has launched an interactive map visualizing the digital divide in education. This tool is designed to assist UNICEF country offices, other international aid organizations, government education agencies, and private sector actors looking to more accurately target education aid and distribute connectivity resources.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) regularly holds webinars on the educational dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic. These webinars provide a venue for stakeholders working in education to share practices, ideas and resources about country responses to school closures and other challenges stemming from the pandemic. Past webinars have addressed topics such as continuing education for refugees and strategies for reaching marginalized populations.