Despite the significant progress that has been made to expand access to educational technology in recent years, connectivity for educational purposes, especially in vulnerable urban areas and rural areas, remains an obstacle. Before the pandemic, countries in the region focused their efforts on connecting schools, but due to school closures, the connectivity agenda has expanded to include providing accessible and stable internet connection to students and teachers in their homes.
The lessons learned during this period offer a unique opportunity to explore the role of key actors and actions that are required to ensure the universalization of school connectivity and create the necessary conditions to expand access to high-speed internet for educational purposes in schools and homes.
To support this ambitious agenda, the Inter-American Dialogue, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the World Bank convened a Committee for the Expansion of Connectivity of the Working Group on Technology and Innovation, with the aim of developing a series of proposals on how, through public-private partnerships, Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries can drastically expand internet connectivity (in schools and homes) for educational purposes. The Committee met for the first time on September 1 to begin this process. In its first meeting, the strategic challenges for the educational connectivity agenda in the region were discussed, through the experience of several countries and key actors in the sector.
The challenge of achieving significant connectivity for educational purposes is multidimensional: The connection must be of sufficient quality to allow educationally relevant use and must be accompanied by access to devices and content platforms.
The expansion of networks that enable connectivity must be accompanied by measures that make it affordable for all: Currently, only 11 of the 21 countries in the region reach the affordability target set by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) and accepted by the UN.
The education connectivity agenda cannot be an autonomous one: It should be an integral part of a multisectoral agenda for digital development at the national level.
Public-private partnerships are key to advancing this strategy: Coordination with the private sector has played a central role in financing frameworks for the rapid – and low-cost – expansion of regional coverage in the context of the pandemic, therefore, it is important to continue promoting these collaborations in the future.
Connectivity strategies must recognize and respond to the diversity of situations experienced by households and schools in the region: These differentiated strategies for connectivity must take into account various socio-economic situations (urban or rural areas, or income levels in such an unequal region) and the pedagogical use for a future hybrid model.
The Education Program thanks AT&T Foundation, Coursera, Facebook, Microsoft, Pearson, SBA Communications Corporation, Telecom, and Viasat for their generous support in the making of this report.
On April 26, 2019, the Inter-American Dialogue and CAF – Development Bank of Latin America hosted “Institutions for Productivity: Towards a Better Business Environment in Latin America” to present and discuss the underlying challenges and policy recommendations found in CAF’s flagship report.