Schools in Developing Countries

Some schools in developing countries are impressive. Innova Schools in Peru are groundbreaking. The Hamels Foundation School in Malawi is awesome. There are many educational points of light throughout developing countries.

Many other schools in developing countries — millions, actually — are unbelievably constrained. In rural Nicaragua classes may be held in shipping containers. In Africa, many schools are held by necessity outdoors. Often a “school” may have a teacher (with limited training), a blackboard — and that is about it. Limited classrooms, no desks, no books, few teachers, no standard curriculum — that is the best you can find in many places.

I was visiting schools once in rural Malawi, and since I was a foreigner, I was handed a note from a school I hadn’t visited requesting help. It outlined that it had few teachers, desks, and toilets:

If schools are lacking even the most basic elements of education, what good will broadband do? A lot actually. One thing is clear from even the most resource-constrained environments: education is a generally a very high priority. If that means holding class in a shipping container or outside under a tree, so be it. People make the best with what they have.

If there is connectivity and at least one device, that opens up a world of opportunities. Teachers have resources. Students can get curricular materials. Ministries of Education can start to reach more students.

Broadband doesn’t solve the education problem. People still need teachers and desks and toilets. But it can help a lot — and in environments where education is prioritized, people are resourceful and benefit from connectivity.

Loon Signs Disaster Relief Agreement with AT&T

Loon, the internet connectivity subsidiary of Alphabet, is partnering with AT&T, to assist with communications during natural disasters. Loon balloons, flying in the stratosphere and integrated with AT&T networks, can be quickly deployed to serve as “floating cell towers” to restore phone and data service.

Loon has played this emergency role in the past, including in partnership with AT&T. In 2017, Loon deployed balloons to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. That year Loon also deployed balloons to Peru to restore connectivity lost to extensive flooding.

Based on 2017 experience, Loon has continued to work in Peru, now launching commercial operations to connect schools, clinics, businesses and consumers in remote parts of the country.

Loon reports it has received regulatory approval from 50 countries to fly its balloons. The new agreement with AT&T will involve all countries in which AT&T operates or in which AT&T has international partner roaming agreements.