TECH4ALL: Powering Digital Inclusion with Technology

ByKevin Zhang

September 23, 2020

Kevin Zhang

On day one of Huawei Connect 2020, I spoke at the summit “TECH4ALL: Powering Digital Inclusion with Technology”, reaffirming Huawei’s commitment to using technology, skills, and applications to create new value in digital inclusion, especially in the domains of environmental conservation and inclusive education.

But we know that we can’t go it alone: harnessing Huawei’s 30 years of experience in CSR and our ongoing commitment to sustainability, TECH4ALL is at heart a global partnership – a partnership that can make a real difference in creating a sustainable planet where no one is left behind. In this post, I summarize the steps we’ve taken so far on the TECH4ALL journey in the areas of environmental conservation and inclusive education.

Nature’s Guardians

In the environmental domain, TECH4ALL is committed to using technology to conserve natural resources and mitigate the effects of climate change.

From Costa Rica to the Philippines, Huawei is supporting the non-profit organization Rainforest Connection (RFCx) in the deployment AI algorithms, training models, and upcycled mobile phones to protect rainforest ecosystems in the shape of rainforest solar-powered “Guardians”.

The Guardian system can detect the sounds of chainsaws and trucks used for illegal logging and alert rangers, who can then intercept these events. The Palawan rainforest in the Philippines, for example, is shrinking by 5,500 hectares per year – the equivalent of 7,700 football pitches.

RFCx CEO & Founder Topher White explains the Rainforest Guardian project in Palawan

Illegal logging is responsible for 90 percent of deforestation, which in turn decimates habitats for countless species. To help protect biological diversity, the Guardians also collect and analyze animal sounds in the rainforests, including those of the endangered spider monkey in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula.

Source: RFCx / Chainsaws & wildlife picked up by the Guardian system in the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

As of August 2020, Guardians were running 24/7 in 14 countries, protecting over 3,300 km² of rainforests.

The Return of the Big Cats

Underpinned by Huawei’s network technologies, a large-scale sky-to-earth monitoring system has been built in the Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park on the Russia-China Border. The 14,600-km² park is home to Amur tigers and Amur leopards, both of which are endangered – fewer than 600 Amur tigers are left in the wild.

To restore the cats’ habitat and help them repopulate, the system uses a 4G network, big data, and AI to connect more than 3,000 monitoring stations and transfer data on key markers, like biological diversity, environment, and human interference, to experts thousands of miles away. These experts can analyze the population and habitat status of endangered species and provide rapid decision-making support for conservationists, rangers, and park management.

Source: National Forestry and Grassland Administration Amur Tiger and Amur Leopard Monitoring and Research Center / Since deployment, 1 million images and video clips of wildlife have been captured in 18 months.

And it’s working. Last year, litters of Amur tiger and Amur leopard cubs were caught on camera.

To explore how we can further use technology to protect nature, Huawei is working with IUCN on the Tech4Nature program. Tech4Nature will select typical forests and marine ecosystems where technology can be deployed for conservation, providing knowledge, technology, and resources for more than 300 protected areas worldwide.

Inclusive Education

Even before COVID-19 interrupted learning for upwards of 1 billion students worldwide, universal access to learning resources was far from the global reality: 1 in 5 children – some 263 million – had never been in school as of 2018, according to UNESCO figures. And this year, the pandemic has intensified the gap between who have access to education resources and continuity in learning and those who don’t.   

In the education domain of TECH4ALL, Huawei has two broad aims: One, make learning more accessible and effective for disadvantaged groups. And two, provide training in digital skills, both digital literacy and technical skills.

Education Continuity during the Pandemic

In China, we’ve launched the Learn Anytime Education Alliance with more than 100 education partners to provide online learning platforms and solutions. So far, we’ve provided free emergency teaching live streams for 5,000 schools and enterprises, reaching over 50 million online students.

In Senegal in Africa, Huawei is working with Senegal’s Ministry of National Education and local carrier Sonatel to help local teachers use digital technology to record courses, so that students can then study at home through TV or radio. Since mid-August 2020, 200 teachers from primary and secondary schools have received training in the digital skills required for distance learning. They will in turn support and train other teachers, which will ultimately benefit 100,000 students in the country.

Open School System: UNESCO-Huawei Partnership

As a core member of the Global Education Coalition launched by UNESCO, Huawei is working with UNESCO on the Open School System. The project aims to build an inclusive, equitable, and crisis-resilient education platform in Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, and other countries. The Open School System will deliver connectivity and digital resources for schools in remote areas and create nationwide distance learning platforms, so that teachers and students can use digital learning resources both in and out of school during and after the pandemic.

In Bangladesh, we’ve teamed with Bijoy Digital on a two-year project to ensure learning continuity during the pandemic. Huawei has provided tablets with built-in access to the Internet that are also preloaded with fun education apps from Bijoy Digital, so that children can study in the comfort and safety of their own homes. We’re planning to roll out the project to cover 2,000 students.

Project beneficiaries: Grade 2 student Ariyan with his parents, Grade 4 student Sanzida, and teacher Iftakhairul

Skills on Wheels

For people in remote areas, a lack of digital skills is a major problem preventing them from thriving in the digital world. According to the European Commission, 90% of future jobs will require basic digital skills, yet 43% of Europeans lack basic digital skills – a situation that’s even more acute in developing countries. Launched in 2019, the TECH4ALL “Skills on Wheels” series of projects is bringing mobile classrooms into the heart of underserved and disadvantaged communities.

Class in progress in the Kenya DigiTruck

In partnership with Close the Gap, Computer for Schools Kenya, GSMA, UNESCO, and Safaricom, the DigiTruck – a converted shipping container – is delivering training in digital skills to communities in Kenya that lack facilities, teachers, and sometimes a power supply. Course content ranges from basic computer literacy to surfing the Internet to starting an online business. Fully solar-powered and equipped with laptops, VR headsets, and online access, the Kenya DigiTruck has provided 25,000 hours of training to 1,500 students and teachers across 6 counties in Kenya.

Read more: Student Voices: Why We Need Access To Digital Skills

In Bangladesh, women in rural communities don’t always enjoy the same opportunities as men. However, six custom-built Digital Training Buses, each with 23 work stations, is changing that. In partnership with the Bangladesh government and local carrier Robi Axiata, we’ve provided digital literacy training for 63,000 women in rural areas. And we plan to reach another 166,000 women by 2023, providing them with the foundation to thrive in the digital world and boost career opportunities.

Digital Training Bus for girls & women in Bangladesh / Students Urmi and Arifa

In Europe and in partnership with child empowerment experts Insight, the Huawei SmartBus is teaching children aged 11-15 how to navigate the online world safely through interactive classes on cyberbullying, online safety, and data privacy – one in three of today’s 4.4 billion Internet users worldwide is a child, but it’s not always a safe experience. So far the bus has reached more than 22,000 children from over 120 schools in Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Children learning about online safety on the Huawei SmartBus

Connecting Schools

Internet access is crucial to giving underserved, under-resourced, and remote schools access to high-quality education resources. Projects we’re currently running with our partners include the DigiSchool in South Africa, which aims to connect and equip 100 rural and urban schools to improve the literacy of children in grades 1 to 3.

Students in class at a DigiSchool in South Africa

Building A Thriving ICT Ecosystem

It isn’t just basic digital skills in which a gap exists – we’re also seeing a global shortfall in tech talent in fields like data science and machine learning, which are essential to a thriving digital economy. Since 2012, Huawei ICT Academy has been providing ICT training to university students worldwide, encouraging them to participate in our certification programs and the Huawei ICT Competition. As of December 2019, we’d worked with 938 universities in 72 countries and, in 2019, we trained more than 45,000 students. In response to the pandemic, we launched the “Learn ON” project to provide free high-quality resources on an open platform through the Huawei ICT Academy. In the first half of 2020, “Learn ON” opened more than 300 MOOCs and over 450 online classes, covering more than 60,000 students, including at Kenya’s Zetech University.

StorySign

In partnership with the European Union of the Deaf, the British Deaf Association, Penguin Books, Aardman Animations, and several NGOs, we set out with the mission to use technology to help deaf children to learn to read – an often overwhelming challenges that for many closes the door on a world of imagination, learning, and curiosity. So in 2018, we created the StorySign app which, based on AI and augmented reality, brings books to life in a fun and engaging way. StorySign currently supports 71 books in 15 sign languages and the app has been downloaded more than 50,000 times.

Join Us

TECH4ALL is aligned with Huawei’s vision and mission: To bring digital to every person, home, and organization to build a fully connected, intelligent world. And in this connected and intelligent world, no one should be left behind. With our partners, we will continue on this journey – making a difference where it matters step by step, project by project.

Learn more about TECH4ALL and find out how you can join us.


Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.

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Kevin Zhang

CMO, Huawei ICT Infrastructure Kevin is Huawei’s CMO of ICT Infrastructure. He is responsible for developing and implementing the company’s overall ICT brand and marketing strategies, building technical leadership in ICT, and promoting sustainable business growth. Kevin is also in charge of communicating Huawei’s brand strategies and corporate vision, and he leads the company’s digital inclusion initiative TECH4ALL.

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