“These youngsters are determined, but don’t have the connectivity”

Intelsat is working to bring reliable broadband internet to underserved and unconnected communities around the world. While we have connected many, there are still corners of the globe that struggle to access a regular, reliable internet connection.

Lack of access to the internet results in a global disparity of information and socio-economic inequality. Today, roughly half the world’s population does not have Internet access, which means about four billion people are excluded from the socio-economic benefits of Internet connectivity.

That divide was ever-present when Intelsat began its partnership with XinaBox on a recent STEM initiative across the African continent.

“We noticed a [connectivity] disparity between many of the students we interviewed for our scholarship program,” said Christell Meyer, Director of Sales, Intelsat South Africa.

Intelsat is sponsoring scholarships for 16 students in Africa. Using XinaBox’s dedicated space STEM kits and educational programs, students will design, build and launch satellites into space.

Meyer says many applicants noted barriers to internet access and a working computer. Some students used the same email address and computer via internet cafes in their town. Others logged on to apply from a small room within a refugee camp in Kenya where students applied and interviewed for the program using a social worker’s computer.

“We know connectivity is a problem. This interview process highlights the severity of the problem,” said Judi Sandrock, XinaBox Co-Founder. “To be involved in the project, students need a reliable internet connection. If they can’t connect, unfortunately, they are cannot participate to the degree required. It’s a missed opportunity.”

However, there is hope. Sandrock says not making the cut this time does not mean disqualification; it means students can participate in the future, once-reliable internet is in place.

“Many of our customers across Africa have stepped up and said they would like to help us connect these communities so students can have a shot at making their dreams of working in space a reality,” said Meyer.

Students using XinaBox STEM-learning resources

Meyer says there is even discussion of delivering XinaBox learning sessions via satellite, a solution to use connectivity in an asynchronous way

These changes will likely take place after this first mission is concluded.

Additional missions could also be crafted for students in special situations, including those living in a refugee camp in Kenya.

“We are considering a ‘Train the Trainers’ lesson for those students with limited infrastructure. Many times, refugee students are not included, and as a result, they are overlooked and never participate in many programs. We want to make sure we close that gap and fulfill their dreams,” said Sandrock.

Expanding access to connectivity is at the heart of Intelsat’s mission, ensuring even more people around the world can realize the economic and social benefits of today’s digital world, and in turn, maximize their human potential.

For more information on Intelsat’s commitment to STEM education and connecting the unconnected, visit our annual Corporate Social Responsibility report.