09/09/2014 01:08 pm ET Updated Nov 09, 2014

Digitally Democratizing Education

If all children left school with basic reading skills, 171 million people would be lifted out of poverty. We all know that education is critical if we are to have a fairer world and yet we don't currently invest in models of delivering education that can reach every child.  Sixty million children are denied even a primary education. That has to change, and fast.

If we combined all aid budgets available for education it wouldn't scratch the surface of delivering schooling to the millions who need it. We need a new paradigm for global education.

Children are desperate to learn and, with the right tools and access to information, it's amazing how much they achieve, rapidly becoming teachers to other children.  But teachers also need access to digital tools; too few have the books and lesson plans that they need for the classroom. Sugata Mitra, who won the TED prize in 2013 for his research into child-led digital education, demonstrated a simple solution to students' lack of access to educational resources: the digital democratization of education through the construction of internet-enabled kiosks in developing countries. Students, teachers, and communities can access education on a hitherto unimaginable scale. Connectivity supports the whole community, those in school and out. Suddenly, there is the possibility of reaching every child in need.  
Simple innovation and infrastructure, like solar-powered digital hubs, can make education accessible to all, even in the most remote locations, and thereby ensure a fairer start in life and the ability and skills for communities to lift themselves out of poverty. Sugata's research has shown that children not enrolled in a traditional education system who have access to digital education demonstrate a phenomenal 121% rate of improvement in standardized math scores, a 90.1% rate of improvement in literacy scores, and more than a 75% rate of improvement in computer literacy.

The children I've worked with have the same hopes and ambitions as any child. They want to do well, look after their families, have a safe and happy life; they want to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, programmers, teachers and architects. They don't feel their limitations; they don't focus on their lack of opportunity or education. They take every nugget of information, any teaching, and dive into it, ever hopeful, ever optimistic. They are determined and hardworking.

It's a travesty when this determination and will to succeed is squandered because they are denied their basic right to education.
It is in all of our interests to address this problem now, before it is too late.  We are in danger of ignoring the creation of a global underclass of dispossessed people excluded from opportunity and the means of advancement. These are the very people who we will rely on to solve some of the world's most pressing problems; we need their creativity, insight and potential.

A spirit of enquiry is a limitless educational resource; you can teach yourself to speak a new language if you can get on line, you can research quantum physics, you can design a house and you can keep in touch with the world. The possibilities are endless. What I'm most excited about are the innovations, inventions and ideas that will come out of the communities who have been voiceless until now. With education, and connectivity, we will finally be able to learn from them.
There is so much at stake. If we want a peaceful integrated world we must speak out for education for all.