“Education is a human rights imperative – it is a development imperative – it is a security imperative”

Mobile Learning Week 2015 opens at UNESCO Headquarters

Despite the phenomenal growth of mobile technology, too many girls and women are still missing out on the opportunities it can deliver, especially in education. The need to bridge this gap is the key message of the 2015 edition of Mobile Learning Week, opened by UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova and UN Women’s Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris today.

“Education is a human rights imperative – it is a development imperative – it is a security imperative,” stated Irina Bokova in her opening address. “This is why we must ensure every girl and boy can go to school, receive the right learning and contribute fully to society. Across the globe, this is not happening […] Girls and women are hit hardest.”

“Mobile technology can be an enabler of education. Mobile technology can offer learning where there are no books, no classrooms, even no teachers. This is especially important for women and girls who drop out of school and need second chances,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

The International Telecommunications Union, describes mobile phones as the “most pervasive and rapidly adopted technology in history”. Of the seven billion people on Earth, over six billion now have access to a working mobile device. This means that mobile technology is now common in areas where women are underserved and educational opportunities are limited. Yet too many still do not have access.

“There is still a persistent gender gap in access to mobile technology.” said keynote speaker Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. “Research shows that a woman in a low or middle income country is 21 per cent less likely than a man to own a mobile phone. In Africa, women are 23 per cent less likely than a man to own a mobile. In the Middle East the figure is 24 per cent and in South Asia, 37 per cent. The reasons women cite for not owning a mobile phone include the costs of handsets and data plans, lack of need and fear of not being able to master the technology.”

Mobile Learning Week provides a platform for highlighting these gaps, exchanging an sharing ideas of how they can be bridged and showcasing what works. The programme includes 80 workshops to build the capacity of mobile learning practitioners. It also includes a Policy Forum for government representatives to discuss ideas for mainstreaming and scaling up successful mobile learning interventions to promote gender equality in education, and to discuss the role of mobile technology as the international community develops new goals for education and development.

Participants include experts, policy-makers and private sector leaders from more than 70 countries. The members of the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which meets at UNESCO on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 February, will participate in the Policy Forum.