Despite progress in providing access to education in recent decades, a global learning crisis persists and hundreds of millions of children are still being left behind. Before COVID-19, one in five school-age children of primary to upper secondary school age was out of school. Moreover, even children in school are not necessarily learning – 617 million children and adolescents worldwide, many of whom are in school, cannot read or perform basic mathematics. Global school closures in 2020 – which the World Bank estimates that could result in a loss of US$10 trillion in lifetime earnings for this generation of children – further exacerbate this dire state of affairs.

At the onset of the crisis, governments and education actors began developing systems to deliver education remotely, and recent data show that over 90 per cent of education ministries worldwide have implemented remote learning approaches that involve radio, television or the internet.

Connectivity is critical in today’s world, and UNICEF has been working to reach every child and adolescent worldwide with digital learning technologies. This work has been supported by the considerable data that are available on internet use among different age groups across the world’s regions and countries. However, the disruption to education and other essential activities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic make it necessary to understand how many children and young people aged 25 years or less are able to access digital technology at home that can support their educational, professional, social and other needs.

As such, rather than simply estimating the share of households with an internet connection, this analysis leverages household survey data from 87 countries and looks specifically at the number of children and young people aged 25 years or less who live in households that have an internet connection. Therefore, the statistics presented in this factsheet are influenced by the number of family members aged 25 years or less in each household. More details on the methodology are available in the Annex.

The unique findings presented in this factsheet provide new insights on children and young people’s access to connectivity worldwide, as well as the factors that drive inequities among and within countries. It also aims to serve as a resource for stakeholders who seek to reimagine education and enhance internet access in their communities.

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