Connecting Niger’s Population to Opportunities

The President of the Republic of Niger has reaffirmed country’s commitment to accelerate action and sustain investment to advance digital connectivity in Niger.

By Lalaina Fatratra Andriamasinoro & Islamane Abdou
Digital Connectivity
UNICEF/Islamane
01 September 2020

NIAMEY (Niger), 1st September 2020 - Together with the Generation Unlimited Group Leaders, the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, held today a special high-level virtual event entitled “Generation Unlimited: Connecting Half the World to Opportunities”.

The event aims to spark a historic movement of world leaders and young people to help connect every school, child, and young person to the Internet, and scale up modernized education, including world-class digital solutions, distance learning, relevant skill set training, entrepreneurship, and remote work for 3.7 billion children and youth below the age of 25 by 2030.

UNICEF/Islamane

For Niger, this initiative is an ideal opportunity to accelerate universal access to digital technology in order to achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030

His Excellency M. Mahamadou Issoufou, President of the Republic of Niger

His Excellency M. Mahamadou Issoufou, President of the Republic of Niger, in an address broadcast on National Television, has reaffirmed his commitment to accelerate action and sustain investment to advance digital connectivity and digital learning in the country.

“For Niger, this initiative is an ideal opportunity to accelerate universal access to digital technology in order to achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030” he said. “If there is one area in which digital technology should constitute a tremendous opportunity for change for our countries, it is education.”

Education is the best pathway out of poverty. However, unequal access to quality modern education is one of the biggest challenges in the world today, more starkly revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused the largest disruption of education in history.

COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the digital divide within and between countries and regions, making closing this gap more urgent than ever, and placing universal connectivity and digital learning higher on the agenda of United Nations Member States.

“In Niger, a minority of students living in cities have been able to maintain a link with the school thanks to digital technology, while the vast majority, who live in rural areas, have been literally cut off from the world, thus finding itself in the impossibility of continuing a normal education, due to the inaccessibility of families to digital technology’’ explains H.E. M. Mahamadou Issoufou.

Digital Connectivity
UNICEF/Islamane

The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded the central importance of connectivity, especially for young people. The world now has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take a giant leap forward and reimagine education through modern, relevant, and entrepreneurial skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, connect every young person to the Internet and opportunities.

“Today, distance learning appears to be a necessity and an asset for our planet. Digital technology must henceforth constitute the shield with which our education systems will strengthen their resilience in the face of various crises and disasters. That is why I call on our development partners to support us in achieving this goal of universal access to the Internet” added H.E. M. Mahamadou Issoufou.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have selected Niger for the Giga initiative, which aims to bring the power of meaningful connectivity to fast track young people’s access to educational resources and opportunities. Niger was selected regarding its ICT policy that helped improve access to the Internet and digital services in the country.

Among existing initiatives to boost internet connectivity in the country include The Niger 2.0 Smart Villages Project. It aims to promote a promising approach to initiating digital transformation in rural and remote parts of the country.

Access to ICTs remains relatively low in Africa, but many opportunities and significant assets exist to reduce this digital divide.

His Excellency M. Mahamadou Issoufou, President of the Republic of Niger

Recently, the World Bank approved a $140 million financing to improve the quality of teaching and learning in Niger. The project entitled The Niger Learning Improvement for Results in Education (LIRE) is focused on vulnerable and ‘fragile’ regions of the country and scale up distance learning programs in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Access to ICTs remains relatively low in Africa, but many opportunities and significant assets exist to reduce this digital divide. Africa has significant demographic asset. We must transform this asset into an economic dividend” concluded H.E. M. Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Republic of Niger.