Image: Camilo Jimenez
Just Tech Covid-19 Rapid-Response Grant – Summer 2020


The closure of universities and the move to online classes due to the Covid-19 outbreak have emphasized inequalities in regions such as Latin America. This research looks at the impact of Covid-19 on higher education in this region. Drawing on Colombia’s largest public university, the National University of Colombia (UNAL), this study sets out to understand how Covid-19 has affected students and teachers’ access, usage and skills of information and communication technologies (ICT) to better understand the appearance of new forms of digital and social inequalities. This research asks: (1) In what ways do limited ICT for e-learning affect new online courses and public university students’ decision to remain enrolled? (2) What are the characteristics of limited ICT for e-learning among public university students and professors? (3) What actions should be taken to reduce limited ICT of public university students and professors? To answer these questions this study will collect information using remote methods. The gathering of information includes surveys via email and interviews via telephone calls or virtual meetings with students and teachers at the Medellin Campus. The expected outputs of this research include: On a short-term basis (a) a report for the university’s “Covid-19 emergency program”; and (b) dissemination of the results and responses of Covid-19 in the context of education through the UNAL’s radio station and digital newspaper, both of which have a considerable outreach nationwide. The long-term output entails an article in order to engage with an international community.

Principal Investigators

Lirio Gutiérrez Rivera

Assistant Professor, Universidad Nacional de Colombia

Lirio Gutiérrez Rivera is an assistant professor in political science at the National University of Colombia-Medellin Campus. Her research focuses on urban violence, security, gender and urban planning, and recently migration in Latin America, in particular Honduras and Colombia. Her recent research looks at contemporary Honduran migration. Based on her work as an expert witness for Hondurans seeking asylum in the United States. and Europe, this research sets out to understand how the global agenda on crime and migration control are connected to the displacement of thousands of Hondurans in their home. Lirio has published in various journals, such as the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research and Global Crime. She is the author of the book Territories of Violence: State, Marginal Youth, and Public Security in Honduras (Palgrave 2013).

Johanna Vásquez Velásquez

Associate Professor, Universidad Nacional de Colombia

I am an associate professor in the Economics Department of the National University of Colombia. I am an economist with a PhD in engineering who specialize in the fields of economics education, specifically, on the relationship between dropout and retention and social development in the developing world. My work uses a variety of multi-criteria decision making and microeconometric techniques to study individual incentives and impacts of dropouts in higher education.