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Interview with Simon Muskett, Head of Education Design & Delivery and Connect to Learn at Ericsson Academy

Connect-to-Learn

Earlier this year I attended an event in London on the theme of girls in education and had the pleasure of meeting Simon Muskett, who was also there to represent Ericsson at our Connect to Learn stand. We’ve kept in touch, and he’s given me great insight into our Connect to Learn and volunteer programs.

Simon recently made time in his busy schedule for me to interview him about education, Technology for Good and Connect to Learn.

Can you start by explaining what Connect to Learn is?

Connect to Learn is a strategic partnership between Ericsson and the Earth Institute, a part of Columbia University in New York. It’s a global initiative which provides access to broadband, ICT equipment, and cloud solutions, with the goal to support education in the developing world as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goal #4 – to provide Education for All. There’s also a special focus on educating girls and young women, providing them with opportunities they wouldn’t normally have. It has been proven that educating women and girls has the power to enable significant positive change both socially and economically.

I understand that it’s been a great year for education, Connect to Learn and Technology for Good – can you tell us what’s been happening?

It’s been another great year, and things are moving at a momentous pace. In terms of our education activities, we are currently engaged in most regions, with numerous activities being rolled out. We’ve worked with great people from numerous Ericsson functions, partnered with some fantastic NGOs, developed relationships with governments and we are well on our way to scaling Connect to Learn exponentially over the coming years! This will help us to reach people who really need access to quality education and won’t get the opportunity without our support.

I often hear about activities in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia – what’s going on there?

Yes, we have a lot of activity in those regions. For example, in Southeast Asia, we have a large Connect to Learn project in Myanmar. We’ve deployed our technology, equipment and education material to 31 schools, trained teachers on how to use it, and enhanced the learning for the students. This is in partnership with UNESCO, the Earth Institute, DFID, Qualcomm Wireless Reach, Finja Five and local stakeholders. All 31 schools are now online, and they’re in some of the most remote places, where people vitally need our support. This year, we trained Myanmar’s department of basic education and the schools’ teachers on the use of our ICT equipment in the classroom.

In sub-Saharan Africa, we also have multiple projects. Our most established one is the Millennium Villages project, which spans across many African countries to bring access to broadband and ICT based education to rural communities. In partnership with the Earth Institute and Millennium Promise, we have brought connectivity to these communities, and deployed Connect to Learn.

In addition to the work in these two regions, we are active across the world. We have strategic partnerships with NGOs in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. We have a number of new and exciting education initiatives that have just launched. In Mediterranean Europe, for example, we just launched a project in a school in Italy to help create a pathway for children and young adults toward careers in the ICT industry.

I also want to highlight our work on the Whittaker Peace and Development Initiative, which brings ICT education to support peace-building initiatives in different locations around the world. And also our collaboration with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) where we provide support for their education capability in refugee camps. We help provide teachers with access to resources that help them learn how to better meet the complex needs of conflict-affected children.

What can we look forward to next year?

Well, one big thing that’s just starting up now is the Employee Volunteer Training Program. It’s a training and accreditation program for employees, with the idea being that once they are trained they will be able to deliver training and coaching relating to Ericsson Academy, our learning materials and the technology within Connect to Learn. A large network of internal support will be vital to help us reach our ambition of impacting over one million students through Connect to Learn by 2020. As we reach more and more marginalized communities there will be an increased need to train even more local people on how to use our technology. Our trained and accredited employee volunteers will be able to do this.

We are also working on an ICT foundation program for university students globally, after our success in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. In partnership with local universities we are providing an accreditation that prepares students for careers in the ICT industry, promotes participation in STEM subjects, particularly for young girls, and opens up more opportunities for young people to choose a career with Ericsson.

And we’re developing a Connect to Learn app that will make it easier for people to access our learning materials on any device, which will help even more people in marginalized communities.

So many great projects! Anything else you would like to add?

Yes – there are a couple of other projects that are really exciting. We have just begun a partnership with a Virtual Reality specialist to develop a VR program that will help teachers across sub-Saharan Africa improve their professional development and competence using a VR classroom simulation.

Thanks for taking the time to share all this information with us, Simon!

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