UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore's remarks at the Special emergency session of the Broadband Commission

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01 April 2020

NEW YORK, 1 April 2020 - This is a summary of what was said by Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director - to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's Special emergency session of the Broadband Commission

"Schools across the world are closed, and their students are being taught online. Sometimes.  In places where parents can afford it, and teachers have experience.  In other places, this pandemic is doing what any big shock will do and increasing the distance between those who have and those who do not.

"In addition to the devastating immediate effects of COVID19, the secondary impacts on education, jobs, and finances will continue to impact children, and the world’s most vulnerable, disproportionately in the years to come.

"In September, when we launched the School Connectivity Working Group, and in the months following when UNICEF and ITU built the structure and team around GIGA, our initiative to create the financing for connectivity for every child, we imagined a slightly different 2020 than the one we’re currently in – and so I’d ask you to help us adapt to this reality and move the project for School Connectivity forward quickly.

"We will work to create the financing structures for public and private funding for a set of ‘quick start’ countries – where we have been working for the last few months to build GIGA, and where many of you have deep experience and interest as well.  We hope to begin (and we will be revising this list over the next week, so please don’t tweet anything out quite yet) with Niger, Kenya, Sierra Leone in Africa, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in Central Asia, Honduras and El Salvador, and a number of countries falling under the Office of Eastern Caribbean States.

"In each of these countries we have most of the data we need to make the case for both public infrastructure investment as well as private, institutional debt and equity to build up the network, provide the bandwidth, create access to the right software for teachers, learners, and parents, and also create the beginnings of a financial services layer where money can be transferred to and from communities more easily.

"Some of you have already raised your hands to help – I don’t want to announce things before they’re signed but two Mobile Network Operators here have offered to help us kickstart some of this work, as well as one major national development agency.  Of course, in November we signed on Softbank as a financial services advisor, and we’ve formalized agreements with the Prime Ministers of many of the countries I already mentioned.

"We will strengthen our alliance of those of you who can help us work in these countries to get national connectivity for schools up and running – and to help us bring in some of the public money, now, in this time of pandemic need, that will support provision of education, entrepreneurship skills, and financial infrastructure in these countries.  Once we get the model for the first 8 or so, in the next two months, we will expand rapidly and use what we’ve learned to quickly cover more ground."

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