15 December 2003


Will Connect Pupils, Villagers across Developing World

GENEVA, 12 December (UN Information Service) -- The Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (GeSCI) was launched today at the World Summit on the Information Society.  The Initiative seeks to connect thousands of schools and villages in the developing world through information and communication technologies (ICT).

Launched by Jose Maria Figueres Olsen, Chairman of the United Nations ICT Task Force, Dermot Ahern, Ireland’s Minister for Communication, Erkki Liikanen, European Union Commissioner for the Information Society, and Mrs. Nane Annan, the Initiative seeks to address the needs of some of the 370 million school-aged children who are unable to attend school.

GeSCI will attempt to transform today’s pilot efforts for ICT education into a comprehensive and efficient model carried out by strong partnerships.  By employing such models ICT solutions could be delivered at costs that are potentially five to 10 times less expensive than current approaches.

This new global Initiative is an independent mechanism which was created to stimulate and support national and regional e-school initiatives.  It was created by the United Nations ICT Task Force, whose “founding members” are Sweden, Ireland, Canada and Switzerland; Ireland and Sweden were the developers within the Task Force.

The smart use of ICT in support of education can make this global dilemma less of an issue.  Deploying ICT in schools can also be of great benefit to the communities in which the schools are located.

“If we are to bridge the Digital Divide, we must match the powerful new tools of development with the people who need them most”, said Secretary-General Kofi Annan. “The Global e-School and Community Initiative does just that, and has the potential not only to improve education, but also to empower people, strengthen governance, open up new markets and galvanize our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”

The distinctive feature of GeSCI is that it does not limit its impact to improving education through the use of ICT.  It goes further and aims to use the strengthened education infrastructure to empower local communities, by facilitating their access to global and local information and knowledge.  This will significantly strengthen their capacity to benefit from e-health, e-commerce, e-government, e-democracy and all other empowerment tools that ICTs bring about.


GeSCI will play five major roles:

-- Convene all the required players -- especially global players who cannot find a good way to play a useful role on their own -- to address the barriers that they face in contributing to e-school efforts;

-- Facilitate national and regional planning, by serving as a neutral facilitator and by contributing expertise and knowledge of best practices;

-- Help to raise resources, including by stimulating funding from governments, facilitating contributions by local communities, and connecting

e-schools efforts with development agencies, global foundations and private companies;

-- Provide specific global services, such as a global education portal, and coordinated bulk purchasing of equipment and software among multiple countries;

-- Arrange for independent monitoring and evaluation, which can help attract donors and private companies concerned about their resources being well spent.

The Initiative will bring together existing efforts and help to carry out national and regional initiatives.  It will work closely with other groups -- such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) e-Schools Initiative -- that have similar objectives, as well as with local governments, the private sector and civil society.

The first countries that will use the GeSCI approach are India (Andhra Pradesh), Bolivia, Ghana and Namibia.  With the help of the GeSCI secretariat, local governments will bring together all national, regional and local stakeholders in education to create an efficient, comprehensive system for delivering education through ICT. Based on this system, the international GeSCI coalition will garner international services needed for implementing the system.

National processes in the four pilot countries have already started.  The project in Andhra Pradesh in India has thus far come the furthest:  consultations have been held, a model has been agreed upon and implementation of the model is about to start.

In addition to the United Nations system, the governments of Sweden, Ireland (to host the secretariat) and Canada, the European Commission, as well as the McKinsey Company, are all deeply committed to GeSCI.  The McKinsey Company has carried out the feasibility study on a pro bono basis.

“This innovative partnership can help millions of children and young people throughout the developing world to improve their lives”, Mr. Annan said.  “After all, while education unlocks the door to development, increasingly it is information technologies that can unlock the door to education”.

For information, please visit www.gesci.org, or contact Samuel Danofsky at the UN ICT Task Force, tel.:  (1 917) 367 2424, e-mail:  danofsky@un.org.


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