is Executive Director of Fundación Telefónica in Peru. This inspiring and very successful foundation is a non-for-profit organization that believes in a digital world built on solidarity. Its main mission is to create opportunities through educational, social and cultural projects, which address the challenges of the digital world. A lawyer by trade, Elizabeth is now making her mark, not only as a successful woman, but more importantly as an inspiration to the youth of Peru. She shares her vision of what is required to create a true digital society.
A DIGITAL WORLD BEYOND CONNECTIVITY
Do telecom operators have a role to play to help connecting the unconnected?
Despite all the efforts made by telecom operators to enable global connectivity, there is still a great number of people who do not benefit from a true digital life. Yes, it is crucial to continue investing to deploy the latest network technology. However, we as operators, have to keep in mind that there is still a lot to achieve to not only connect the unconnected, but more importantly, to give them the tools necessary to take advantage of the digital world. For example, a report from the GSMA concluded that the lack of infrastructure was not the main barrier to internet adoption in Latin America, as only 10% of the population lives in areas where internet is not available, while a surprising 57% of the people with coverage do not use the internet. On the contrary, the GSMA concludes that the lack of local relevant content, digital literacy and digital skills where the most important barriers to reaching full digitization. So in my opinion, telecom operators must go beyond offering connectivity and to facilitate digital education. This is what Fundación Telefónica is trying to accomplish in the region. To achieve this goal, Telefònica created Educación Digital, which is a platform that offers digital solutions using 400 digital professionals in Spain, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Chile. Educación Digital offers educational material to 4 million students and has a Content Factory which produces more than 20,000 hours of content each year.
EDUCATION SETS YOU FREE
Can you share some concrete results of Fundación Telefónica projects?
In the past 22 years, Fundación Telefónica has invested US$320 million to foster technology education, as we believe it is the cornerstone of a country’s success. We work to minimize Peru’s digital educational gap and to improve the quality of education in places where more than 70% of population does not have internet access. There are over 75,000 students in rural or vulnerable areas in Peru where a significant digital gap exists. With the help of the Foundation, they now have access to an education based on the use of technology, using virtual educational tools and resources. This empowers them to develop the digital skills which will be essential to their future employability. This process starts with headmasters and teacher, which is why we offer them the tools and knowledge they require to take advantage of technology in their teaching methodologies, which in turn benefits the children. On the other hand, today’s students are digital natives, so the challenge with them is to offer guidance to enable a proper use of technology, not just as a recreational tool, but rather as a tool that can help in their education. The success achieved in Peru convinced Fundación Telefónica to launch another more ambitious and global project: Aula Digital. Our ultimate goal is to prepare 120,000 primary students in vulnerable areas of Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia for the digital era.
A WOMAN FROM CUSCO WITH A PASSION FOR EDUCATION
What was your motivation to change your focus from business to social actions?
More than 16 years ago, Telefónica gave me the chance to be part of its great family. I started from the bottom, as an analyst, and climbed my way up to corporate regulatory affairs in Grupo Telefónica in Peru and Spain. I had attained my career goal. However, a decade ago, an opportunity came along for me to take all the experience I had gained and use it to become an agent of change. To get involved in social projects that would change people’s lives. I could not say no to such a great occasion. Now that I lead Fundación Telefónica, I feel very privileged that I can work with such an inspiring group of people who are passionate about transforming people’s reality and give them the chance at a success and fulfilling life, no matter where they started in life.
What’s the best advice you wish to pass on to our readers to achieve success?
Firstly, you must not to listen to people who tell you that you cannot do something and there will be many of those on your path. It is up to you to silence these voices and do whatever it takes to overcome the challenges and obstacles that you will face throughout your career. This is even more important as a woman in business. Thankfully, Peruvian women are overcoming prejudices in a male orientated industry. We are gaining confidence in our capabilities, are getting empowered to aim for leadership positions and we are succeeding. You also need to follow your passion. I was lucky enough to achieve this through my current position, as my job fills my soul – being able to transform people’s lives through education and culture. But more importantly, you must study. Knowledge is power and education will set you free.