Education and employment

Increasing access to education using mobile technology can contribute to economic development by enabling interactive learning even in remote areas

Education and employment

We are exploring ways to use communications technology to extend access to education, promote skills development and improve working lives and livelihoods.

Education is critical to future prospects and employability, yet many people in emerging markets never even enter the education system. We see significant potential for communications technology to increase access to quality, interactive education, particularly for those living in remote areas. Women often face additional challenges in accessing education and jobs. Many of our programmes are specifically aimed at empowering women to gain an education, become entrepreneurs or join the workforce.

Our mobile education solutions combine the power of Vodafone technology with the know-how and support of local organisations. In 2014/15, we continued to partner with specialist education organisations to expand new learning solutions and address illiteracy in several emerging markets.

We are also exploring how to use our technology to connect people with job opportunities. In 2014/15, we began to explore the potential of communications technology to tackle unemployment in Europe, particularly among young people, through our new Digitising Europe platform for industry collaboration.

Read on to find out more about our approach and our performance in 2014/15.

Enriching classroom learning

In India, our biggest market, over 11 million children never attend school and most qualified teachers are concentrated in urban areas1. But with almost one in five people across the country accessing the internet via Vodafone mobile networks, we can use our technology to improve education in remote areas.

In partnership with Pratham Education Foundation, the Vodafone Foundation has established our Learn, Out of the Box programme in nearly 1,000 low-income schools in India. This aims to improve the standard of education for 70,000 underprivileged children over three years. The programme uses innovative software and the mobile internet to train teachers and help them engage students with interactive learning materials and multimedia content.

The Learn, Out of the Box programme makes education more accessible to students whether they are using mobile phones, tablets or the Vodafone WebBox (a low-cost internet-enabled device that connects to a television). Together with Pratham Education Foundation, we provide all the necessary equipment and learning materials and train teachers to use the service. In 2014/15, we launched pilots in Rajasthan, Assam and Jharkhand to further explore the use of tablets and new learning models.

In South Africa, schooling for many children is hampered by poor infrastructure, lack of materials and inadequate teacher training. We partnered with Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, Mindset Learn and the Department of Basic Education to extend the reach of education with mobile technology through the Vodafone Mobile Education programme. The programme aims to improve teaching in maths and science through dedicated teacher centres, teacher training, access to educational resources and connectivity.

Since its inception, the Vodacom Mobile Education programme has set up a web-based Digital Classroom with teaching materials and useful resources, provided equipment for 894 schools, established 61 teacher centres and trained over 20,000 teachers. Many of these benefits are being delivered through a Vodacom-powered Virtual Private Network (VPN) that connects ICT resource centres, participating schools and teachers to the internet, the Vodacom Digital Classroom and each other. An estimated 500,000 learners across South Africa have benefited from the programme so far.

Early childhood education can be critical to future learning success. To empower teachers in Ghana to engage more with children in this formative period, the Vodafone Foundation and Educators International, an NGO, launched the Phonics by Phone Project in 2014/15. Delivered through a mobile application, the programme provides teachers with a tool to help children build sounds into words and remember them through rhymes, songs, riddles and games.

In focus: Instant Network enables education for refugees

There are 25 million child refugees worldwide who spend an average of 17 years displaced, with very limited access to education.

To help tackle this issue, the Vodafone Foundation, in partnership with Italian NGO Don Bosco, opened the first Instant Network School in 2013, for children living in refugee camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The school, in Goma, is enabling 2,300 children aged 7–17 to access online educational content via tablets provided through the Instant Network’s mobile education programme.

Following the success of this pilot, the Vodafone Instant Network programme expanded in 2014/15 to create two new classrooms in Ajuntok, South Sudan, and 13 classrooms in Dadaab, Kenya. Over 26,400 students and 500 teachers in Africa now benefit from Instant Network classrooms, which will be deployed to further countries in 2015/16.

To support the roll out of Instant Network Schools, the Vodafone Foundation developed Instant Classroom, a digital ‘school in a box’ that can be set up within minutes. It connects teachers and children to online resources even at the most poorly resourced refugee camps where power and internet connectivity is unreliable or non-existent. Equipped with a laptop, a charging case, 25 tablets loaded with educational software, a projector, a speaker and a hotspot modem with 3G connectivity, Instant Classrooms can be used for a full day without access to electricity. Instant Classroom was launched in March 2015, in partnership with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Vodafone Foundation Instant Classroom will be deployed to additional schools in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania with the aim to reach more than 60,000 children and young people over the next two years.

Promoting skills and employability

We use mobile technology to enable adults to improve literacy and develop digital and professional skills in markets such as Egypt, Ghana, India and Turkey. Connecting people to education and skills training improves their job prospects and helps them improve their livelihoods.

In Egypt, 17 million adults are unable to read and write. The Vodafone Egypt Foundation is working in partnership with the national General Authority for Literacy and Adult Education and local NGOs to tackle illiteracy using classroom and mobile learning through the Knowledge is Power project. Since 2011, more than 300,000 people have enrolled in Knowledge is Power classes which are supported by Vodafone technology and 20,000 youth worker volunteers. Over 240,000 participants have already graduated from the programme; 70% of graduates are women.

To enhance opportunities for young women in Ghana, Vodafone is partnering with the British Council to launch a scholarship scheme. The partnership will grant 100 high school scholarships to 15–16 year-old girls interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Recipients will have their full tuition and administrative fees paid, as well as receiving other benefits such as textbooks and exercise books.

Many of our adult education programmes focus particularly on helping women. In 2014/15, the Vodafone Foundation launched the #DigitalRickshaw campaign in India to set up Digital Communication Information Resource Centres in 20 locations across the country. The centres empower local women to use computers, learn about digital media and access literacy programmes and information on beneficial government schemes.

In Turkey, the Vodafone Women First programme helps women use mobile technology to access information, acquire new skills and increase their incomes. The Women First Advertisement Service, a key part of the programme, is enabling women with little experience of mobile technology to sell their handicrafts and products on one of Turkey’s biggest online marketplaces, sahibinden.com.

Connecting people with employment opportunities

Communications technology can help connect workers with available jobs. This was one of the opportunities highlighted in our Connected Worker (pdf, 4.2 MB) report, published in May 2013.

Our new Digitising Europe initiative is exploring how the growing market for communications technology can contribute to the economy and boost employment opportunities. With nearly 22% of people under the age of 25 in Europe unemployed and youth unemployment topping 53% in Greece and Spain, one of the main aims is to create jobs for young people.

Digitising Europe is supported by the Vodafone Foundation and delivered by the Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications, a think tank formed in 2011 which is affiliated to Vodafone Germany. The Institute aims to explore the potential of mobile and digital technologies to improve political, social and economic participation and to give better access to education.

In December 2014, we held the first Digitising Europe summit, Opportunities for the Next Generation, attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and representatives from leading tech companies and start-ups.

During the summit the Vodafone Foundation announced its partnership with Intern Avenue, the UK-based website that matches applicants with paid internships. Funding from the Vodafone Foundation will be used to help Intern Avenue connect thousands of students and graduates with suitable employers in Europe, and develop a mobile service to complement Intern Avenue’s existing web-based tools.

This builds on an independent report, commissioned by the Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications, which recommended that digital services connecting young people with employment opportunities should be expanded across Europe. Find out more about Digitising Europe and the Vodafone Institute.