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Digital education, a harbinger for sustainable development

Sustainable development is a phrase that has become commonplace in every agenda that aims to set goals and plans for future economic growth. While certain countries are making huge strides in terms of sustainable development, in the form of zero net-emission cities, huge inequalities still persist in the world. The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) is a charitable organisation established in 1913, with over 500 member institutions from different parts of the Commonwealth. The organization represents its members in rallying for better educational opportunities and excellence in education for all member institutions. Prominent universities from the Indian subcontinent are also a part of this charitable organization.

The ACU has recently also spoken out regarding the great digital divide, which has become even more prominent due to the recent COVID-19 crisis. The ACU wants to include digital learning and access to it in the Sustainable Development Goals, drafted by the United Nations. This has stemmed from a recent survey undertaken by the ACU across its member countries. The results of this survey showed the degree of inequality between the Global North and the Global South, in terms of the lack of digital infrastructure to promote e-learning.

The results from the survey have also brought forward another divide, that exists within institutions. This particular divide is the discrimination in terms of facilities and infrastructure available to senior students compared to undergraduate students.

Moreover, the results also show that only a meagre 19% responders from low-income countries have access to the internet, compared to a whopping 83% of respondents having access to broadband. This is a major hitch that prevents students from low-income countries, particularly concentrated in the African region, to be able to access high-quality education. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has also meant that most students are studying from home, and a reliable internet connection has become the absolute need of the hour.

The authors of the study recommend public-private partnerships, to help close the digital divide. They have also recommended outside funding and financing.

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