UNICEF's global initiatives work to ensure that all children, including those excluded or marginalized, can benefit from digital learning.
UNICEF's global digital education initiatives reach millions of children and young people in over 100 countries, with a focus on the most marginalized:
Accessible Digital Textbooks: Making learning accessible for children with disabilities
Akelius: Language and foundational learning for refugee and migrant learners
Bebbo: A parenting app with essential information and tools
Gateways: Connecting all children to digital learning opportunities
Giga: Connecting all schools to the internet
Learning Passport: A flexible and customizable digital learning platform
Oky: A period tracker app for girls
Passport to Earning: A platform with job-relevant skills training for young people
Skills4Girls: Developing girls’ skills in areas such as STEM and digital technologies
UPSHIFT: A social innovator accelerator for young people
Yoma: A digital marketplace for learning to earning opportunities
Ready to start school
Digital learning platforms have emerged as indispensable tools in empowering parents of young children by offering vital information and resources on various aspects of early child development, learning and well-being.
UNICEF’s Bebbo parenting app aims to empower parents of children aged 0-6 years by providing them with essential information and tools related to health, vaccination, playful parenting, early learning, nutrition, and breastfeeding.
The app is currently being implemented as part of UNICEF programming in 14 countries within the Europe and Central Asia region. To date, the app has been downloaded by over 750K users, and our focus now is on developing Bebbo 2.0, incorporating the insights we have gained so far.
Building foundational literacy
Digital learning provided in schools and in non-formal education is a valuable tool for building foundational literacy and numeracy.
Accessible Digital Textbooks
The Accessible Digital Textbooks (ADT) initiative, led by UNICEF in collaboration with Ministries of Education and global partners working on disability inclusion, creates and delivers accessible digital learning content that allows children with and without disabilities to learn in the same classroom. The ADT initiative has thus far been implemented by UNICEF in 10 countries across Latin America, Europe, and Eastern and Southern Africa.
A key priority for UNICEF is to close the digital divide and give every child equal access to quality, tailored digital learning to complement face-to-face teaching. To achieve this goal UNICEF developed the Learning Passport, the organization’s flagship digital learning program and a public-private partnership.
The program has been proven and tested and brings together a highly flexible platform and supporting ecosystem to meet the unique needs of learners and educators worldwide. From foundational learning to skills development, the Learning Passport adapts seamlessly to any educational context, whether formal or non-formal and can deliver quality digital education online or offline.
Since the program launched in 2020, it has reached 6 million learners in 36 countries including Timor-Leste, Kosovo, Poland, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Egypt, Puntland-Somalia, Lao PDR, Sierra Leone, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, Uzbekistan, Honduras, Zambia, Serbia and Tajikistan.
The program is being used in diverse ways to ensure children, young people, teachers, and caregivers can access critical education resources and continue learning from anywhere, at any time. It is helping students in Zimbabwe access formal primary and secondary curricula; supporting skills development for adolescents in Lebanon; building capacity and training teachers in Lao PDR; providing access to critical mental health and psycho-social support resources in Poland; and ensuring students in the Philippines without connectivity can access high-quality digital resources through the Offline Learning Passport.
Building skills for the future
Digital learning is a valuable tool for building digital and 21st century skills, empowering tomorrow's leaders with the knowledge and skills they need to make important decisions about their life, livelihood, and well-being.
The future workforce is projected to focus on science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and social entrepreneurship. Over 90 percent of jobs worldwide have a digital component, but options remain limited or non-existent for girls, especially adolescent girls, to excel in these male-dominated fields. Women represent only 35% of global Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics (STEM) graduates at the tertiary level.
UNICEF, through the Skills4Girls Portfolio, is currently working with and for girls in 22 countries to bridge the gap between the skills girls need to be competitive in the 21st century workforce, versus those they have traditionally had access to. Skills4Girls develops girls’ skills in areas such as STEM, digital technologies, and social entrepreneurship in addition to life skills such as problem-solving, negotiation, self-esteem, and communication.
Oky, the period tracker app for girls
Oky is the first-of-its-kind education and period tracker digital solution, co-created with and for girls in low and middle income countries. By using Oky, adolescent girls learn about their body, puberty, and reproductive health in positive and empowering ways, while practicing and improving their digital literacy. It also tackles taboos and misconceptions, and offers quality, evidence-based information about menstruation and sexual and reproductive health. Oky is available in local girl-friendly languages that meets girls’ needs and answers the questions they have.
Oky is open-source, and is currently being deployed in 14+ countries around the world, using a social franchise business model for scaling. In each new country, Oky is adapted to local contexts both by partners and by girls themselves. The Oky scaling approach deploys a business model via franchise licenses to local partners; this franchising model allows Oky to scale outside of UNICEF, while adhering to Oky principles and being supported by and affiliated with UNICEF as the founding partner.
Passport to Earning
Passport to Earning (P2E) is a digital platform that will provide young people aged 15–24 years with free, world-class and job-relevant skills training and position them for employment opportunities. P2E is built on the Microsoft Community Training platform and offers digitized content provided by a range of public and private sector partners.
The UPSHIFT programme blends leading approaches to youth and adolescent development with social innovation and social entrepreneurship. UPSHIFT empowers young people to identify challenges in their communities and create entrepreneurial solutions to address them.
Yoma is a digital marketplace where youth can build their futures by actively engaging in social impact tasks as well as learning to earning opportunities
Disrupted education and learning in emergencies
Digital learning is a powerful tool that can help us build resilient education systems and ensure inclusive continuity of learning during emergencies and protracted crises, affecting millions of children and youth globally.
The Akelius Digital Language Learning Course, a joint initiative by UNICEF and the Akelius Foundation, was launched in 2018 to address the educational challenges faced by refugees and migrant children worldwide. By supporting the acquisition of language skills relevant to the host or transit country, the programme addresses a critical barrier to the effective integration of these children into national systems for education and training.
Beyond its primary focus, the Akelius Language Learning Course has also been embedded within foundational literacy programmes that target mother tongue instruction.
Currently operational in 13 countries, this language course supports UNICEF's education programmes, catering to learners in various languages. Accessible on a range of devices, including computers, tablets, and smartphones, both online and offline, the course is supplemented with physical books, notebooks, and games. This comprehensive approach ensures a blended pedagogical experience that accommodates different learning styles and environments.
The interactive and engaging course, created in collaboration with local teachers and experts, helps marginalized children overcome language barriers. By doing so, it opens avenues for them to access quality education, thereby significantly improving their prospects for the future.
The Offline Learning Passport
The Learning Passport’s Offline Model enables learners and teachers to continue their education in low to no connectivity areas, helping to bridge the digital learning gap. The offline model utilises two general concepts to provide digital learning experiences in areas without connectivity:
1. Hub/Learner Device Concept
A hub device located in an offline classroom and/or learning centre serves two main purposes.
- It acts as a server, storing all local digital content and individual learner records
- It produces a local area network (LAN), essentially creating a Wi-Fi network
2. 'Sneakernet' Concept
For a hub device to download new digital content and sync user progress and analytics, the hub device will be intermittently synced at connectivity points - places with the internet. This will enable users even in offline environments to access updated and relevant content. We are also developing other approaches to sync digital content and analytics such as through the physical transport of data on storage devices which would then be synced to an online database.
The Offline Model is built for facilitated learning experiences in classrooms and/or learning centres. Therefore, programme components involve more traditional intervention structures such as teacher training and human scaffolding around a learner.
Connectivity and infrastructure
Giga is a UNICEF-ITU initiative to connect every school to the Internet and every young person to information, opportunity, and choice. What does Giga do?
- It supports high-level engagement and governance around school connectivity. Giga helps shape conversations around connectivity by bringing key stakeholders under a common agenda and through meaningful advocacy.
- It provides technical assistance to map school locations and their Internet connectivity status. Giga’s Project Connect map provides a real-time display of access to connectivity and need, for funders, governments, and other stakeholders. Since 2019, Giga has mapped over 2.1 million schools in 138 countries. Giga also monitors the quality of Internet connection in connected schools, almost in real time, through the Project Connect Daily Check App, and builds tools for governments to identify gaps in infrastructure.
- Giga also supports governments in contracting for connectivity, helping them design competitive procurement processes needed to get schools online.
Partnership with Airtel Africa
Airtel Africa and UNICEF are working across 13 countries in Africa to help accelerate the roll-out of digital learning through connecting schools to the internet and ensuring free access to learning platforms.
By providing equal access to quality digital learning, particularly for the most vulnerable children, the partnership will help to ensure that every child reaches their full potential.