Barcelona prepares to host Giga Technology Centre

A proposed open-source research and development centre in Barcelona promises to accelerate the Giga initiative, which is working to connect every school in the world to the Internet. The Governments of Spain, Catalonia, and Barcelona are working with UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – the key United Nations agencies behind Giga – to move forward on plans for the centre’s establishment in the city.

As Giga partners announced on 18 July, the proposed centre will accelerate efforts to connect all schools in the world to the Internet:

The Government of Spain, the Catalonia Regional Government, and the City of Barcelona in collaboration with UNICEF and ITU are meeting this week to further develop plans for the establishment of a Giga Technology Centre in Barcelona.

The centre will advance the work of Giga – the UNICEF and ITU initiative to connect every school to the Internet. It will drive efforts to equip learners with information, opportunity, and choice through research and product development to increase digital connectivity in schools. The centre will lead on experimenting and creating new connectivity solutions through blockchain, satellite imagery analysis, and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies – all entirely open-source. It will also provide a space for Giga, technology companies, regulators and policy-makers to collaborate on digital policies in support of universal school connectivity.

The Technology Centre in Barcelona will provide Giga with the technological and political capital to complete the satellite mapping of every school in the world. It will position Giga as the preeminent global resource for the network operations data and open-source technology required to sustainably connect all schools to the Internet using AI and satellite imagery to map school locations, blockchain technology to monitor real-time connectivity status, and infrastructure and policy data to model optimal connectivity solutions.

“The essential first step to connect every learner to the Internet is knowing where every school is located and how to reach them. As we set up the Giga Technology Centre, we will continue to build the open-source software to answer these fundamental questions,” said Fayaz King, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Innovation. “The engineering work started with support from the Musk Foundation, Ericsson, Dell and others will be developed and scaled in the city that hosts the Mobile World Congress and top global technology firms. This will be a game-changer for millions of learners around the world.”

Established in 2019 with the ambitious goal to connect 2.8 million schools and 500 million children to the Internet by 2030, Giga is progressively closing the digital divide which keeps millions of children from attaining improved learning outcomes. Working with 19 governments and 14 corporate and non-profit partners, Giga has mapped more than 1.2 million schools and connected more than 1.3 million students to the Internet. It continues to map schools’ real-time Internet access, create models for innovative financing, and support governments’ design and execution of enabling policies and efficient contracts for school connectivity.

“This new partnership will be a crucial catalyst allowing Giga to accelerate the development of the world’s most comprehensive open-source technology platform for enabling universal school connectivity,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU.

Barcelona is a city renowned for its technological innovation and favourable digital policies oriented toward digital inclusion and open-source solutions. It will provide Giga with access to its vibrant ecosystem of tech companies and serve to bring technologists from emerging markets together in one physical space to build, collaborate, and scale solutions for connectivity for children. The Giga team will be working in close collaboration with UNICEF Spain and the regional committee of UNICEF Catalonia.

Giga serves as one of the key pillars of UNICEF’s Reimagine Education, which works towards improved connectivity, affordability of data, access to devices, and engagement with young people. It is also central to ITU’s mission to connect all the world’s people, and to ensure every school and every young person is connected to information and communication technologies. As a fundamental part of the UN Secretary-General’s Digital Cooperation Roadmap and Common Agenda, Giga collaborates with a wide array of partners and is continuously seeking new ones.

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