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Goal 4: Quality Education
THE DIGITAL POVERTY GAP: WHY IT HAS TO STOP
As the UK enters its third national lockdown, it’s clear that broadband is the key to education for all
By hannah rochell
6 january 2021
Homeschooling is hard enough for both parents and children to deal with during the coronavirus pandemic, but lacking the equipment to access adequate learning resources makes it impossible to keep up with those who are lucky enough to live with plentiful facilities.
According to Ofcom, between 1.1 million and 1.8 million of UK children (around 9%) don’t have access to a laptop, desktop or tablet to use at home, and of those, 880,000 live in a house that doesn’t have broadband connection, and can only use mobile phone data. This digital divide hits the poorest students the hardest.
While many more schools have been able to provide laptops and tablets to those who need them since the first UK national lockdown in March, many are still lacking, and on Tuesday night it emerged that more than a million children in England who don’t have access will be classed as vulnerable, and will be allowed to go to school for face-to-face learning during the lockdown.
Meanwhile, pressure has been mounting for broadband providers to make access to online learning resources free while schools are closed, and for those who have to self-isolate and learn at home when restrictions are lifted. Leading the way is the Three UK network, which has announced that it will give disadvantaged school children unlimited data upgrades until the end of the school year. BT and Vodafone are also in talks with the Department for Education about improving existing schemes.
Globally, and aside from Covid-19, broadband is the key to offering education to all. According to the UN, more than 260 million children didn’t go to school in 2019. The Broadband Commission, which was established in 2010, focuses on strategies to make internet access more affordable and accessible worldwide. Learn more about how Covid-19 is affected widening the education gap and more about Goal 4: Quality Education.