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Fast internet access
Understanding how it impacts access to education
COVID pushed the limits of our global internet infrastructure and today we’re in a new normal where education is more distributed than before. Most learning verticals (schools, afterschool programs, higher education, professional/vocational, etc.) have returned to their previous state but the pandemic triggered a new phase in learning. For that change to last and for the world to adopt even more modern learning practices supported by technology, we need fast internet access everywhere.
🌀 Internet access and income
Fast internet access is a problem in most countries across the world. Even in wealthy economies like the US, lower-income internet users face challenges. The main one is directly related to income: paying for broadband at home.
🗺️ Outside of the US
According to research compiled by various tech companies billions people still don’t have internet access. As you can see in the table below, more than 50% of that population is in 5 countries: India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. In addition to those, there are quite a few countries where over 80% of the population doesn’t have internet access. So it’s safe to say we have a long way ahead of us.
Mobile has been growing for the past 10 years (especially in countries with a larger unconnected population), mobile phones are becoming cheaper, and mobile download speed has increased globally between 32% and 53%. The challenge with mobile is that in most education verticals, learning experiences are designed for larger screens so mobile isn’t the perfect solution yet.
For example, in the US, 26% of low-income households are mobile-only. For those students that can access remote classrooms only through a smartphone, there are a lot of limitations.
📡 Special internet projects
There are quite a few initiatives aiming to increase internet access globally. By doing so, they will be enabling modern online learning to happen in even the most difficult-to-reach areas of the world.
Starlink is already live in 45+ countries in Jan 2023 and plans to cover more. The cost for locations where affordable 5G and/or landline broadband is available doesn’t make sense but for every other location it hopefully does.
Loon is Alphabet’s pilot project that aims to offer internet access through balloons that float in the stratosphere. The project saw great success by giving internet access to a school in Brazil, and communities in Peru, and it’s now permanently live giving access to 35k people in Kenya. Loon formed the HAPS Alliance, which is a network of telecommunication companies working together to expand internet access through related technologies.
Acquila is Facebook’s similar project aiming to provide internet access across remote parts of the world through a solar plane like the one below.