Following his recent appointment as SDG Fund Global Advisor on Digital Education and Sustainable Development, business leader Cesar Alierta visited the United Nations headquarters in New York this Friday, February 3rd. The director and technological business leader, who until 2016 was CEO and Chairman of Telefónica, will advise the UN´s Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG Fund) on how the use of information technology can contribute to increased access to education for millions of children around the world.
This collaboration is part of the SDG Fund´s partnership with the ProFuturo project, an initiative of Fundación Telefónica and "la Caixa" Banking Foundation, which aims to improve education for more than 10 million children in Africa, Latin America and Asia by 2020, with the goal of reducing inequality in the world.
The visit coincided with the UN's Social Development Commission, which met this week in New York to review strategies to reduce inequalities. At a breakfast with government representatives, the private sector and UN Agencies at the International Peace Institute, organized by the SDG Fund, Alierta explained that education and technology are a "lever for transformation and improvement of opportunities for children living in situations of vulnerability".
He explained that 65 percent of children starting primary education today will work in proffessions that have not yet been created, and most of them will require training in digital skills. Access to quality education is the Sustainable Development Goal 4, approved by the United Nations as part of Agenda 2030 for the period 2016-2030. Alierta also stressed the need for public and private sectors to partner to fight inequalities, to reduce education gaps and thus eradicate poverty in the world.
In a world where over 50 million children are estimated to be out of primary school and 24 million will never go to school, digital education -understood as the use of information technology to accessibly deliver quality content- can improve educational results in the most remote areas and in the most vulnerable contexts. This is the case, for example, of conflict zones, where most of the non-schooled children live.
As an example, Mr. Alierta described ProFuturo's experience in refugee camps where, using simple technology, this pilot project is allowing families to continue their education and adapt it to the context and specific experience of refugees. "The project has made it possible to adapt the curriculum, to train teachers and to tackle infrastructural problems," he said.
Alierta also emphasized that technology ensures access to quality education for everyone everywhere because "it increases student motivation, reduces dropout rates, provides teachers with tools and arms students with competencies and skills for the 21st century."
ProFuturo was born with the mission of providing "the same opportunities to children in vulnerable environments through quality, personalized and innovative education that manages to transform their learning and provide them with tools for the future", Alierta explained. "We are convinced that we have the best opportunity to use technology to accelerate the development and social well-being of citizens through digital education"
Through this pro-bono collaboration with the SDG Fund, Cesar Alierta has been appointed SDG Fund Global Advisor on Digital Education and Sustainable Development, where he will lead the work in digital education of the Fund, which is a United Nations mechanism, specifically created to achieve the SDGs. In this mandate, Alierta will promote the role of digital education in achieving sustainable development through its triple contribution to social justice, poverty reduction and environmental protection.
In the words of Paloma Durán, SDG Fund director: "It is an honour to have this generous contribution from someone who is one of the leaders of the technology world." She added that "achieving quality education for all children in all places in the world is an ambitious challenge. For this we need to explore ways to collaborate between governments, civil society and the United Nations, where all different development actors must contribute".
As an interagency mechanism of the UN, the SDG Fund, created with an initial contribution by the government of Spain followed by subsequent contributions by 20 other donors, is already working in 23 countries contributing to the achievement of the 17 SDGs. A particular priority of the Fund is to ensure that the public and private sectors collaborate through new alliances. Regarding education, the incorporation of information technology is a clear example of the Fund´s contribution to reducing the education gap and promoting equality.
ProFuturo was created with the aim of transforming the education of 10 million children by 2020 and currently it has active projects in ten countries, including Angola, Uganda, Colombia, Peru, Kenya, Tanzania and Guatemala. In addition to this, there are already 326 schools and more than 1,500 teachers who are implementing the digital and personalized educational model of ProFuturo and about three million children who have received a quality digital education through the education programs of the Fundación Telefonica.