In 2016, the United Nations declared that the internet was to be considered a human right, like running water.


The U.N. has enduringly struggled to enforce international law so for this issue the ruling was met with some criticism. Widespread access to the internet is further complicated in certain countries, such as North Korea and China, who regulate their telecommunications.


The Internet of Things - and the oncoming fourth industrial revolution - will be exposing the internet to an even wider audience. Thanks, in most part, to the engineers who are continually innovating in the telecommunications sector.

This technological expansion will have a profound effect on industry and society as a whole, but presents a unique opportunity for education. Especially, education in third world countries.


Internet infrastructure

Internet infrastructure in Africa has largely leapfrogged the continent over the old technologies and embraced new broadband technologies.

As 4G networks like LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) and LTE-Advanced Pro (LTE-A Pro) make their way into Africa, the 5th generation networks are in the beginning stages of being tested in the United States and Europe.

Deloitte Global’s research report revealed that, at the end of 2016, “over half of all models of 4G [smart] phones were LTE-A capable”. Technologies that can facilitate digital learning are being engineered to work more efficiently yearly. However, they need to be engineered with the third world in mind.

ADSL (Asymmetric digital subscriber line) broadband technology, especially in South Africa, is slowly being phased out due to the rampant criminality surrounding the technologies. The internet is transmitted through copper telephone lines and this copper is regularly stolen and sold on black markets.


EIT Stock Image

Fibre optic cables / Pixabay.com


It is estimated that cable theft has cost South Africa $321 million. One of the main internet utilities in South Africa, Telkom, forked out $12.8 million in 2016 alone to repair cable theft damage and to appoint security companies to prevent it from happening.


As a result, engineers are trying to move from ADSL to more secure, wireless networks; LTE and fibre. They have replaced the dated technology with technologies that can be accessed wirelessly by the end user. Then there are wired fibre technologies. Thankfully for the telecommunications companies, fibre is not a valuable commodity to criminals looking to make a quick buck.


Infrastructure = education

Europe’s leading HR and learning analyst, Fosway Group, conducted a survey targeting 1,000 learning and development professionals.

The results indicate that there is a general belief that digital learning improves learning availability, speed of learning and learner engagement. The CEO of Fosway Group, David Wilson commented:


“It’s important to uncover the realities of digital learning to get to the heart of what’s really working - and not working - for organizations in practice as well as their experiences with digital learning suppliers. It’s about more than just the tools and technologies.”



Their report also revealed that education platforms which host video learning and mobile learning are seeing an increased demand from consumers, compared to traditional on-campus alternatives.


The one determining factor delaying high quality, widely accessible internet, is access.


EIT Stock Image


Once internet infrastructure is established, with affordable data rates, basic and higher education distance learning platforms will undeniably be set up.


The final hurdle, for impoverished communities, is gaining access to physical hardware that will be able to make the most of the established internet infrastructure.


A novel approach being tested around the world is making online curricula available to less privileged communities and rural areas. This content is being compiled by some of the best higher education institutions.

Telecommunication engineers are facilitating this revolution in education. Educators, however, need to actively investigate how they can best exploit it to benefit their students.



Works Cited

"TMT Predictions 2017: Overview | Technology, Media, and Telecommunications." Deloitte Luxembourg. 20 Jan. 2017. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.

L&D. "The Key Drivers for Digital Learning." L&D. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.

Potgieter, Quintus. "Cable theft leads to LTE and fiber push for South Africa" Home - Engineering Career. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.


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