Kathy Gibson is at Huawei Connect – The IT industry needs to take responsibility for making affordable educational technology for marginalised communities around the world.

This is the word from Stefania Giannini, assistant director-general for education at UNESCO, who points out that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on education outcomes around the world.

This has been most pronounced in emerging markets, with major setbacks in education, growth and development.

“This makes digital inclusion more than ever a societal imperative,” she says, adding that technology and connectivity has to be made available to every learner if the world is to fully recover and get back to normal.

“Weed to share knowledge widely if we are to respond to global challenges,” Giannini says. “We call on high-tech companies to increase their R&D on affordable devices and connectivity.

“We need low-cost technology for marginalised groups, and this should be the social responsibility of the IT industry.”

Dr Fengchun Miao, chief of the unit for technology and artificial intelligence in education at UNESCO, points out that one-third of students around the world have no access to learning opportunities.

“But we have also witnessed that technology was took centre stage in ensuring continuity and quality of learning during the crisis.”

Technology also has an important role to play in creating gender parity, Giannini adds.

In less-developed counties, only 15% of women use the Internet compared to 30% of men.

Girls are also less likely to study technology, and women are less-represented in high-tech industries.

“Unesco calls for gender transformation,” Giannini says. “It is about empowerment and the freedom of choice.”

Technology should be in the service of people, used for the public good and not just for private use, Dr Miao adds.

At the same time, he says artificial intelligence should enhance human intelligence, not enfeeble it. And technology should be used to enhance human touch rather than replace it.

In addition, we should all work to limit the harmful impact of technology use on the plant, he says, and avoid doing more harm in terms of climate change.