The dilemma of education in developing countries in the face of COVID-19

The dilemma of education in developing countries in the face of COVID-19

The internet is no longer perceived as a privilege and became a citizen’s right. Similar to having access to drinking water, sewerage, electricity, and telephony. But not just any internet.

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The Corona Virus changed many aspects of our daily life. Two of the most important are related to distance work and distance education. We have seen how Zoom.com in December had 10 million entries per day and went to 200 million entries in March. These two trends will continue to be part of everyday life for much longer than people realize. Two technological aspects become fundamental themes.

The first, that the internet is no longer perceived as a privilege and became a citizen’s right. Similar to having access to drinking water, sewerage, electricity, and telephony. But not just any internet.

If we want to visualize this topic, we can think of highways called 4G currently under construction in developing nations. At least they are 4 lanes, with smooth slopes so that large trucks with cargo containers can climb efficiently, few curves with very wide radii of curvature. In addition, enormous bridges, viaducts and tunnels to help meet these requirements.

So let’s think about the next generation, the 5G highways. What happens is that these highways will not be made of asphalt, they will not have tunnels or viaducts, nor huge bridges. What’s more, we won’t even see them. They will be virtual highways. The internet will be at speeds measured in gigabits per second (Gbps) and not in megabits per second (Mbps). The unit called a “bit” or impulse, will replace the other called “atom”. Moving atoms involves enormous physical efforts. Moving “bits” has zero marginal cost, it happens instantenously and therefore it is extremely efficient.

A surgeon who has to operate remotely on a patient cannot afford to wait even a tenth of a second because it can mean the death of the patient.

Within 10–15 years, autonomous electric vehicles will have to process thousands of impulses per miliseconds and their sensors will respond in real time to cars and pedestrians, animals, or sudden obstacles. That is, also in real time. That is the fundamental reason for the 5G “highway”.

The second case is related to education at a distance, brought to light with terrible consequence due to the pandemic. Millions of children in developing countries were unable to attend classes during these last 4 months due to not having the internet and not having a device called a laptop, tablet or even a smartphone. This equipment also becomes, in the case of students, no longer a privilege, but a citizen right. This last point was the one we tried to solve with the One Laptop Per Child project. We delivered 3 million. We need to deliver one billion worldwide. That is the number of children in third world countries that were left out of the educational system. The negative consequences for society in terms of equality will be horrendous. Not to mention what will happen in terms of competitiveness.

These two issues should be part of cutting edge public policy in developing nations. Otherwise these countries will not be able to be effective participants of the 21st century.

 

Published in Medium.com July 20, 2020

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