Ivan Polizzi, Regional Managing Director of Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific, shares how we are teaming up with companies across the Pacific to bring affordable and reliable connectivity and digital resources to students who need it most through our Digital Inclusion program.

In a world interconnected by networks and devices, it’s sometimes easy to forget that 2.7 billion people around the world are without access to the internet – something that most of us consider an essential aspect of daily life.

You don’t need to look too far away, students without at home internet access in Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands are at risk of falling behind, with the classroom experience rapidly evolving through the use of new technologies like Artificial Intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, 3D printers, and robotics. In some of the Southern Pacific islands, for instance, schools have experienced slow or unreliable connectivity due to the high usage of satellite services. This makes it difficult for students and educators when accessing up to date online learning resources.

At Ciena, we believe all students deserve access to the technology and tools that will help them learn and maximise their potential. Through Ciena’s Digital Inclusion program, Ciena has committed US$10 million over five years to 100,000 educators and students globally, to provide access to technology, tools, and learnings needed to foster digital skills. We want to positively impact the lives of young people and know that we can achieve this through collaboration with our customers.

Closer to home, Ciena is working together with our customers to provide students who currently have limited or no connectivity, access to affordable internet and digital resources to support their education needs. Together, we have been able to impact students in New Zealand, Fiji, and the Cook Islands with improved broadband access to help them with their learning.

Flyer images highlighting Ciena and Spark's collaborationIn collaboration with Spark New Zealand and its Skinny Jump initiative, Ciena recently extended its support of the Ciena Jump for Students Fund. Launched during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, when many students were required to learn from home, the fund offers free broadband to students from households where cost is a barrier to having an internet connection at home across New Zealand. For these families, a lack of internet at home puts them at risk of falling behind their peers because they can’t access extra lessons or complete homework assignments. The Ciena Jump for Students Fund provides students with a Skinny Jump wireless modem and a free broadband connection, including 210GB of data per month, giving them the opportunity to flourish academically. Through the fund, we have been able to support over 700 homes so far, providing not only the students but their entire households with access to the internet as well. This means that the actual number of people who are benefitting from this program is even higher.

Woman smiling while using laptop computer

A  women in Savusavu , Fiji who has benefitted from Project Semata

Working with Southern Cross and Digicel Fiji, we launched Project Semata in March 2023, which will provide high-speed internet access and online learning resources to three schools in Savusavu, Fiji over the next two years. This initiative is especially significant as only a small percentage of students in these schools currently have access to the internet at home, thus opening doors to a world of knowledge that was previously out of reach. In fact, Project Semata has been so well received that additional schools have approached Digicel Fiji to extend the program.

Ciena is also teaming up with Avaroa, BW Digital, and Vodafone Cook Islands to support education transformation in the Cook Islands by providing improved internet capacity to the Ministry of Education for distribution to all schools and providers. Over the next three years, this collaboration with the Ministry of Education will support Cook Islands’ educational institutions as they embrace digital learning.Children performing on a stage

These collaborations are working to amplify the joint efforts of closing the digital divide that still persists in our world today. By equipping students with the necessary tools and knowledge, these initiatives are providing opportunities for success in an ever-changing digital society. They are nurturing a generation of empowered individuals who possess the skills and resilience to thrive in the face of technological advancements, fostering a more inclusive and equitable future for all.

Ciena’s commitment to digital inclusion journey, as we look to collaborate with more of our customers to uncover additional opportunities for initiatives across the Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific region. Though only one step forward towards closing the digital divide, together we hope to create a brighter future for students in these regions by ensuring that every student has the chance to thrive through enhanced connectivity and educational opportunities.