ROUND ROCK, Texas, Oct. 3, 2022 — Dell Technologies has announced a partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) USA to support Giga, a UNICEF-ITU global initiative to connect every school to the internet by 2030 and every young person to information, opportunity and choice.
An estimated 1.3 billion children have no access to the internet at home, and only around half of the world’s schools are online. This digital exclusion particularly affects the world’s most vulnerable children, specifically girls and those with disabilities, causing learners to miss out on the resources online, the option to learn remotely, and the opportunity to develop digital skills. UNICEF and ITU have therefore joined forces to create Giga, an initiative to connect every school in the world to the internet and address this new form of inequality.
An essential part of Giga is mapping school internet access. One of the challenges in bringing connectivity and internet to schools is first understanding and identifying how many schools there are across the globe and detecting if they have internet access. To date, Giga has mapped 1.1 million schools across 50 locations on Project Connect, the open-source platform that provides a real-time display of access and needs for funders, governments, and internet service providers. Once schools are mapped, Giga creates models for innovative financing and supports government contracting for connectivity. Since 2019, Giga has connected over 5,000 schools to the internet, resulting in access for over 2.1 million students and teachers.
Dell’s Partnership with UNICEF USA to Support Giga
Dell partnered with UNICEF USA in October 2021 to accelerate Giga’s work to map, finance, and connect schools around the world. As part of the partnership, Dell provides financial support, technology investment, and technical support to support Giga in their mission.
“Our goal is to democratize technology at a global scale, starting with enabling connectivity and access,” said Cassandra Garber, VP of Environmental, Social and Governance at Dell Technologies. “Our partnership with UNICEF USA and Giga is a step toward our digital inclusion mission to getting technology, skills, and networks in the hands of those who need it most, creating a path towards digital equity for future generations.”
Technology in Action in Sudan
Dell contributes valuable technical assistance, including access to High-Performance Computing (HPC) for use by Giga’s data science team. Recently, this resource has been instrumental in Giga’s ability to map previously unknown school locations by using machine learning algorithms trained on high-resolution satellite imagery.
The application of Dell’s HPC technology for recent work mapping schools in Sudan reduced the time needed to download, process and apply models on satellite imagery from an expected completion time of a year down to only six weeks – nearly a 9x reduction. The trained model has been applied to 1 million satellite image tiles and used to predict over 20,000 school locations.
After the final validation process, this dataset of school locations will provide a critical foundation for bringing school connectivity to children in Sudan.
“Without knowing where schools are, we cannot begin to solve for connectivity. Mapping each school is the very first challenge, and the Giga team is working to solve it by using an incredible combination of innovative methods to map schools around the world,” said Sophia Farrar, Partnership Lead for Giga. “Support from Dell empowers us with world-class technology and accelerates our ability to continue this important work.”
A Commitment to Digital Inclusion
Through this critical partnership, Dell is reinforcing its commitment to advance digital inclusion and use the company’s technology, talents and scale to transform the lives of 1 billion people by 2030. A key part of this commitment to driving digital inclusion is ensuring that people have the right device paired with strong, reliable internet access. As a leader in this industry, Dell and its network of global non-profits, customers, partners and dedicated team members are building a foundation of greater connection to the digital economy and building a more equitable future.
Giga is a joint initiative of UNICEF’s Office of Innovation and ITU’s Telecommunications Development Bureau. It aims to connect every school in the world to the Internet by 2030. Working with 14 corporate and non-profit partners, Giga maps schools’ Internet access in real time, creates models for innovative financing, and supports governments contracting for connectivity. It is part of ITU’s Partner2 Connect Coalition, UNICEF’s Reimagine Education initiative, and the UN Secretary General’s Common Agenda and Roadmap for Digital Cooperation.