Visualise and imagine this.
You’ve never used a mobile phone, you’ve never even heard of Google; even the Internet itself is an alien concept.
This is not science fiction, this is the lived reality for an estimated 2.7 Billion of our fellow world citizens.
This impacts the lives of unconnected people, through less access to opportunities, opportunities that we in this room, take for granted.
One example of less access to opportunities is in education.
By the end of this article, I hope to share with you, and explain three ideas:
Idea one, is that the United Nations’ ambition of universal access to education for all, can be helped using Low Earth Orbit Satellites.
The second idea is, that universal education for all, will help stimulate the world economy, for the better.
And finally, idea three, is that universal education for all, will have cultural benefits, on a local and international level.
Universal Education is a long-time declared objective of the United Nations but has yet to be realised.
Its latest incarnation is the Sustainable Development Goal 4, known as SDG4.
Universal education means that everyone has access to an education.
Unfortunately, currently, not everyone does.
According to the International Telecommunications Union, which is the agency of the UN, concerned with telecommunications:
An estimated 5.3 billion people, or 66 per cent of the world’s population, were using the Internet in 2022.
This represents an increase of 24 per cent since 2019, which was accelerated due to COVID, with an extra 1.1 billion people estimated to have come online during that period.
However, this leaves 2.7 billion people still offline. Source: International Telecommunications Union (www.itu.int/itu-d/sites/statistics/facts-figures-2022)
Whilst the increase is good news, that still leaves 2.7 billion members of the world’s population with no access to the Internet.
This impacts the goal of educational and life opportunities for those 2.7 billion unconnected people. Source: International Telecommunications Union (www.itu.int/itu-d/reports/statistics/facts-figures-2022)
Another reality, is that women and girls are affected more, with less access than males, to the internet.
According to the 2022 report entitled ‘ Measuring Digital Development: Facts and Figures 2022’ (www.itu.int/hub/publication/d—ind-ict-mdd-2022), overall the world average is 6% more males have internet access, than females.
This figure however is an average, with gender parity in the Americas region, but an 11% difference in Africa overall.
Providing Internet connectivity for all, as a way of contributing towards to objective of education for all, is one part of the solution.
In a world where one in five schools are estimated not to even have proper access to drinking water, and same-sex toilets, internet access may not seem a priority. (Source: unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2021/the-sustainable-development-goals-report-2021.pdf)
Indeed the SDG 2021 report also states that an estimated quarter of schools worldwide, don’t even have electricity!
Another issue highlighted in the same report, and facing many parts of the world, is a lack of trained teachers, which impacts the educational attainment of students.
The United Nations through its Sustainable Development Goal 4, is trying to address these issues.
However there is one important issue that hasn’t been talked about, and that is reaching all children, to provide an education.
Some areas of the world are remote and sparsely populated.
This presents a challenge in meeting the UN SDG4 goal of every child being able to access education, by 2030.
Not all children can physically attend a school, for many reasons, including remote location, or being a displaced refugee.
You might think the solution is mobile or cell phone data, thus allowing remote learning.
But to use a mobile phone, you need the telecommunications infrastructure, to connect your call.
Traditional mobile phones, rely on a network of locally positioned ‘cell towers’.
These cell towers connect the radio signals sent back and forth to your phone, enabling calls and data to be sent.
Installing a cell tower involves money, and the company naturally wants a return on investment, simply put, to make a profit.
This is not an issue in central London or even central Lincoln, but in a remote village in Sub-Saharan Africa, with ten villagers, and low income….its an issue.
It’s also not feasible to supply the electricity and communications links, that connect the cell towers to the network.
So what’s the answer, how can we connect those in remote locations, and give them access to the modern world?
Through recent advancements in telecommunications, and in particular, the satellite industry.
such as LEO Satellite constellations, the realisation of education for all, is potentially here.
All it takes is a will! I will share ways that through new technologies, we as a planet can ensure everyone has the right to an education.
I will also discuss the economic and cultural benefits of providing Universal Education.
Well I want help to spread this idea, and want people to know that the UN aim of Universal Education, is possible, with the aid of new satellite communications technologies, to provide 100% global Internet coverage.
I want as many people as possible to come together, and start taking action on making this happen.
My hope, is that the idea will spread, and reach those members of the world community, who can help make the aim of Universal Education, a reality, within the next five years.
Its just not right (in my opinion), that there is a gulf of educational opportunity, based on where you happen to be born in the world.
Satellite Communications can help bridge this educational divide.
Imagine a world, where there is no such thing as an ‘economic migrant’, as their country of birth has the same opportunities, enabled by telecommunications, and educational leadership, on a world scale.
There are 263 million children and youths, aged between 6 and 17, according to recent estimates, not attending school, according a UNESCO.(uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/fs48-one-five-children-adolescents-youth-out-school-2018-en.pdf)
At least that’s the estimate, from UNESCO, which is part of the United Nations.
Lack of access to educational opportunities, hinders children’s life chances.
I have a child, maybe you do to.
Or maybe you know a child.
Imagine that child without a school to go to.
Imagine a child you know, not able to fulfil their greatest potential, dreams, or life ambitions.
Instead that child is more at risk of a life being imposed on them.
A life possibly of child labour, child marriage, or even modern slavery.
You see schools (for all their faults, but that’s for another time) are a way of giving visibility to a child, as well a life chance.
The UNESCO estimate of 263 Million (2018 figures) children and youths, without education is an estimate, as the true figure isn’t accurately recorded.
We don’t actually know the true figure, because we as a world don’t see them, we don’t mark them on any kind of school register.
Its not all bad news, according to UNESCO, the world situation has improved, over the last 50 years of tracking.
According to their data, we as a world have gone from a quarter of the youth population lacking basic literacy skills, to less than 10% in 2016. However the global adult literacy rate in 2016, was at 86% (Source: www.uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/fs45-literacy-rates-continue-rise-generation-to.next-en-2017_0.pdf).
But that still leaves 750 million people, two thirds of whom are female, behind. (Source: as above)
That’s 10% of other peoples children, but for the grace of god and luck of the draw, wasn’t you and yours.
Your kids, or children you know, got an education…….whether they appreciated it at the time of not 😊
So how do we ensure all children get that opportunity.
The right to school, the right to lifelong learning, the right to freedom.
As I briefly touched upon, in my introduction, the United Nations, has set 17 Sustainable Development Goals, known as SDG’s.
Those goods were agreed in 2015, with a target of 2030, to achieve them.
So good news, problem solved, what the heck is the point of this TED talk then.
Well are we on track to achieve it.
Back in the year 2000, the UN adopted the target of providing ‘Education For All’ (at the World Conference on Education for All, Jomtien, Thailand, 5- 9 March 1990) , by 2015.
It wasn’t achieved, and despite progress, and may well of got worse, due to the covid19 pandemic.
“Unless we act now, the 2030 Agenda will become an epitaph for a world that might have been”.
António GuterresSecretary-General, United Nations, on 10th July 2023. (Source: unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2023/)
But I believe its still possible to achieve sustainable development goal 4.
Its possible to provide education for all our children, wherever in the world they are located.
It just requires a concerted effort by the world community, and help from LEO.
Who is LEO?
LEO is not a person, or even the name of a lion, but instead is an abbreviation of Low Earth Orbit.
Low Earth Orbit, or LEO, refers to a type of space satellite that, as the name suggests, is closer to the surface of the earth, than other types of satellite.
These satellites are smaller and lower powered than traditional satellites.
They orbit much closer to the earth, at less than 1000 KM from the earths surface, compared with 36,000 km for a bus size geostationary satellite.
LEO satellites have been put into space in large numbers in recent years.
This is because unlike geostationary satellites, which are stationary, in relation to part of the earths surface, LEO Satellites are constantly going round the earth every 90 minutes.
Traditional geostationary satellites have communications coverage with part of the earths surface, such as the European continent.
This is known as the satellites footprint.
As the earth is round, the geostationary satellites footprint cannot cover the whole of the earth.
LEO satellites work in a different way, to geostationary satellites.
LEO Satellites are able to provide worldwide communications coverage, because there are a large number of them, known as a constellation, constantly circling round the world.
This ensures that there is always one above the earth within communications range above whatever location you are in, anywhere in the world.
So what you may say!
Well imagine a world where geographic location is no barrier to being connected to the Internet.
Imagine a world where all children, young people and adults, could benefit from online learning.
Imagine remote schools and communities, being able to access up to date information, rather than relying on limited text books.
By utilising LEO Satellites, we could enable this.
There are two ways that LEO satellites can provide Internet connectivity to all.
The main way currently used is using ground terminals, which receive and send the internet data between the ground and the LEO Satellite.
Another technology that has just become a reality, is direct to phone internet connectivity, via LEO.
Direct-to-phone connectivity, could be an access to education game changer.
It could help reach more children. This technology now exists!
But they don’t have phones, is the obvious retort.
True, but LEO could connect up isolated villages to village terminals.
We could use refurbished community computers, or even low powered raspberry pi computers, running from open source software.
These community computers could be tethered to an old smartphone. The smartphone would be the device that connects the computer, via Wi-Fi tethering, to the satellite.
Who in this audience has an old smartphone that they no longer use?
This could be part of the solution, towards enabling education for all.
Lack of electricity to power the phones and computer, can be overcome using small solar panels, or other cheap ways of charging, such as wind up chargers.
So what are the benefits of education for all, and lifelong learning opportunities.
Economic empowerment on a worldwide scale, could be revolutionary.
Imagine a world, where there are no economic migrants, because there are plenty of opportunities, in their home country.
Of course it would be naive to believe that there would be no need for people to move around, ever again.
War and conflict encourage people to seek a safer country.
In the past displacement of people, could be disruptive of there access to education, but this can also be solved vis LEO, and online learning.
Low Earth Orbit satellites, and internet connectivity for all, I believe, go hand in hand with the SDG4 vision of ‘Quality Education’ for all.
Not only can lessons be bought to children in the most remote areas of the planet, but new world markets and opportunities for business and economic trade will develop.
Is it a threat?
Will my livelihood suffer, due to competition from newly connected parts of the world.
I don’t believe so, as…currently offline communities will be able to sell their unique local goods, to the world.
Over time they will get wealthier.
They will then become consumers, which could include British goods and services, and of course other countries.
There are cultural benefits too, both for the local communities, in these remote areas, but also for the wider world.
By connecting these communities to the outside world, we not only provide access to education, and opportunities, but allowing new ideas, information and products to spread to a wider audience.
In summary and to conclude,
- It doesn’t seem right that a child goes to school, based on where they were born, or how rich their parents are.
- Satellite technology, via the new generation of Low Earth Orbit Satellites, now enables fast worldwide connectivity.
- We can provide education, even to the most remote places on the planet.
- All we need is a collective will, by the international community.
Thank you for reading.