Working Group on
School Connectivity

The Internet and broadband connectivity have an enormous potential to bridge education divides.

By increasing access to information and educational resources, broadband connectivity helps equip learners with many of the skills they need to thrive in the digital era. However, this is only possible if people know how to leverage those technologies and do so in a safe and protective manner.

The Broadband Commission Working Group on School Connectivity was organized to address the need to strengthen school connectivity plans and invest in quality learning. Co-chaired by the Secretary General of the ITU, Mr. Houlin Zhao, the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Audrey Azoulay, and the Executive Director of UNICEF, Ms. Henrietta Fore, the Working Group’s 2020 report identifies a set of core principles which aim to help governments and other interested stakeholders to develop more holistic school connectivity plans.

Moreover, the Working Group was instrumental in the development of two global initiatives aimed at connecting schools to the Internet: Giga and UNESCO’s E-schools Initiative.

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Setting the Stage

Background Overview

How the COVID-19 pandemic forced the digital transformation of education

The pandemic has exposed deep systemic failures in entire education systems, even in those places where connectivity and access to online learning is more or less granted. In 2020, 53 per cent of children in low and middle-income countries could not read and understand a basic text at age 10. Increasing connectivity alone will not help in the ultimate goal of granting universal access to better and higher quality education.

Why connecting schools and learners is of utmost importance now

Education is at a global state of emergency, and the sudden transformation it is undergoing has fortunately brought much needed attention to this sector making it more relevant than it was before revealed key opportunities and conditions for increasing school connectivity. 

The Way Forward

Working Group Outcomes and Recommendations

The Working Group provided advice for the development of two global initiatives aimed at connecting schools to the Internet:

Giga, a joint initiative between ITU and UNICEF to connect every school to the Internet and every young person to information, opportunity, and choice

UNESCO’s e-schools Initiative, which seeks to ensure the value for learning of connectivity and to align infrastructure investment with education sector plans and ICT in education policies.

This has led to the recognition of the Giga Initiative in the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation as a ‘Key Way Forward’ in developing regional infrastructure and accelerating digital connectivity. It has also contributed to the work and initiatives of the Global Education Coalition launched by UNESCO in 2020 to support the continuity of learning during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The Working Group’s outcome report: The Digital Transformation of Education: Connecting Schools, Empowered Learners introduced a methodology and framework for connecting primary and secondary schools to the Internet based on a four pillars approach: map schools, connect schools, finance school connectivity and empower learners.

It also introduced specific case studies to highlight global learning practices that address core principles across each pillar, which aim to help governments and other interested stakeholders develop more holistic school connectivity plans.

The Working Group Model

Composition and Activities

The Group was launched during the Broadband Commission Annual Fall Meeting in New York, 21-22 September 2019 with the goal of advising on challenges and opportunities related to connecting schools around the world including: technologies, business models, funding mechanisms, articulating the link to quality and inclusive learning, ensuring schools provide the right skills for employability, and ensuring every young person has access to information, opportunity, and choice.

The Group will hold in-person meetings at: Davos 2020, MWC 2020, WSIS 2020


Focus Area

Outcome Resources


Ms. Audrey Azoulay 
Director General, UNESCO, Co-Vice Chair of the Broadband Commission 
Ms. Henrietta Fore
Executive Director, UNICEF
Mr. Houlin Zhao
Secretary General, ITU, Co-Vice Chair of the Broadband Commission

Broadband Advocacy Targets