New technologies that will extend education access to students worldwide

22 March 2012 | Joel Cherkis, General Manager, Worldwide Government

Last month, we featured a blog post looking at how technology is boosting global access to education, and by extension, benefiting national economies. As we continue to explore this topic in more detail, I’d like to spotlight a few examples of technologies that we believe will have a large impact on broadening access to education—from the global perspective. Specifically, we believe that new technologies like Super Wi-Fi, always-on mobile devices, and increasingly accessible and interactive software and interfaces will play a large role in bridging the digital divide that is prevalent throughout the world, providing all students with equal opportunities to learn and realize their full potential.

Super Wi-Fi

Super Wi-Fi is a spectrum that offers a more reliable, accessible connection to the Internet, without the difficulty and expense of installing fiber optic lines or other new infrastructure. Signals that travel within Super Wi-Fi are transmitted much more quickly and can penetrate walls and obstacles more easily than traditional Wi-Fi, offering huge potential for broadening Internet access in rural and undeveloped areas of the world. This means students in remote geographic locations can access the same online learning tools and resources as countries with long-standing investments in broadband infrastructure. Microsoft recently teamed up with Adaptrum to demonstrate technologies that can inexpensively deliver broadband wireless voice, data, and video applications in Kenya. Learn more about this project.

Always-on mobile devices

Always-on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets have already increased access to the Internet for people around the world. By allowing users to instantly pull up information at their fingertips, wherever they are, mobile devices are transforming the way that we interact with information and hold enormous promise for the future. As these devices continue to proliferate, their cost will continue to fall, providing more students with affordable access to online learning tools. Paired with Super Wi-Fi, mobile devices can bring these resources to any classroom, regardless of location and existing infrastructure.

Accessibility

Technologies that foster accessibility will also play a critical role in helping more people communicate, share, and learn, regardless of their location. Tools like the Windows Phone, Windows Live, and Microsoft Office Web Apps allow students and teachers to work together anytime from any device, and Skype brings distance education to life through real-time video. We’re also very excited about the possibilities that natural user interface (NUI) technologies can present. With speech and gesture recognition offered by tools like Microsoft Kinect, students unable to use input devices like keyboards can still interact with classmates and teachers online.

As technologies like these continue to evolve, we’re excited by their potential to transform student access to new education tools and institutions. Broadening access to education is essential to boosting national economies, and we look forward to playing a continued role in advancing this important mission!

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Have a question for the author? Please e-mail us at ongovernment@microsoft.com.

Joel Cherkis
General Manager, Worldwide Government

Microsoft on Government Blog

About the Author

Joel Cherkis | General Manager, Worldwide Government

Joel leads a team of business development and technology professionals supporting policy decisions and the delivery of relevant and scalable technology solutions into public sector markets around the world. Read more