Business, government, multilateral agency and UN leaders commit to connecting children and young people to the internet by 2030

As half the world’s population remain unconnected, a virtual ‘Generation Unlimited’ event calls for urgent action and investment to bridge the digital divide and scale-up digital learning and skilling opportunities

03 September 2020
Children with phone

NEW YORK, 1 September 2020 – Government leaders, business executives and heads of United Nations organizations and multilateral agencies renewed their commitment on 1 September to connect every school and community to the internet by 2030.

At a high-level virtual meeting, Generation Unlimited: Connecting Half the World to Opportunities, they pledged to also reach 3.5 billion children and young people with quality education, including world-class digital solutions, distance learning and relevant skilling.

Participants included United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres; President of the Republic of Rwanda Paul Kagame; President of the Republic of Kenya and UN Global Champion for the Young People’s Agenda Uhuru Kenyatta; President of Trinidad & Tobago Paula Mae-Weekes; UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore; UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown; President of the World Bank David Malpass; CEO of UNILEVER Alan Jope, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, President of Microsoft Brad Smith; United Nations Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake. They called for urgent action, solutions and investment to improve learning and employment prospects for young people.

“Putting resources into digital learning and training for young people is an essential investment in building social cohesion, and in reducing the unsustainable inequalities that are blocking human development and economic growth,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his address to participants. “But these investments cannot be top-down. Young people themselves must be at the forefront, with decision-making power, bringing their creativity, energy and problem-solving skills to the world’s greatest challenges.” 

According to the latest available data from UNESCO, some 1 billion students and youth across the planet are affected by school and university closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak. A recent UNICEF report highlighted that at least 1 in 3 schoolchildren globally was unable to access remote learning when their schools closed, exposing the lack of access to digital technology.

Aiming to connect every school in the world to the internet UNICEF and ITU (International Telecommunication Union) launched GIGA in 2019. GIGA has four main areas: mapping all schools in the world, joint funding the total connection rate, connecting each school directly to the internet, and access to quality educational resources. Kazakhstan joined this initiative and took a lead as Regional Leader in expanding the initiative in Central Asia. 10,200 Kazakhstan schools are already integrated into the GIGA global mapping platform which  currently displays over 800,000 schools in 15 countries. Committed to accelerate the progress in the country and wider region Kazakhstan is developing the first financial model for Central Asia. For implementation of GIGA initiative a special regional centre and regional team have been established in Nur-Sultan.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for universal connectivity. Lockdown and school closures raised the criticality of online learning options for children. Without internet access, especially the most vulnerable children and young people are at risk of missing out on quality education and training opportunities. Therefore Kazakhstan’s leading role in the GIGA initiative is critical to closing the digital divide and expanding children’s access to the internet in Central Asia,” said UNICEF Representative in Kazakhstan Arthur van Diesen.

Using current trends, there will be 3.5 billion children and youth below the age of 25 by 2030, each looking to gain the digital, entrepreneurial and job-specific skills they need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Currently, both the quality and level of access to education and skills training – particularly for the most vulnerable young people, including girls and children with disabilities – are limited and inadequate for a population rightly demanding access to learning, anywhere and anytime.

Founded in September 2018, Generation Unlimited (GenU) aims to transform education, employment and entrepreneurial outcomes for young people around the world by bringing together stakeholders from the private sector, government, UN agencies, civil society and young people to scale up solutions and attract investment.



For further information, please contact:

Helen Wylie, UNICEF New York, Tel: +1 917 244 2215,

Elvira Yausheva, Communication Specialist, tel: +7 707 109 8553;

The event was moderated by World Economic Forum President Børge Brende and participants included:

  • Mr. António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations & Co-Chair, Generation Unlimited Leaders
  • H.E. Mr. Paul Kagame, President, Republic of Rwanda & Co-Chair, Generation Unlimited Leaders
  • H.E. Ms. Paula Mae-Weekes, President, Republic of Trinidad & Tobago & Co-Chair, Generation Unlimited Leaders
  • H.E. Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, President, Republic of Kenya and UN Global Champion for the Young People’s Agenda
  • Mr. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education
  • Ms. Ilwad Elman, Director, Elman Peace & Human Rights Centre
  • Ms. Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF
  • Ms. Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, European Commission
  • Ms. Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund
  • Ms. Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO
  • Ms. Julia Gillard, Chair of the Board of Directors, Global Partnership for Education
  • Mr. Alan Jope, CEO, Unilever
  • Mr. David Malpass, President, World Bank
  • Mr. Mauricio Ramos, CEO Millicom
  • Mr. Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth
  • Mr. Adebola Williams, Co-founder and Group CEO, RED | For Africa

Media contacts

Elvira Yausheva
Communication Specialist
Tel: +7 778 021 19 12
Assel Saduova
Communication Associate
UNICEF Kazakhstan
Tel: +7 (7172) 32-28-78 (144)
Tel: .


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