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Combating the digital divide in schools

The demand for digital transformation

Making education accessible to more people was a core objective when Patrick Aylmer founded Learning People in 2010.  Now, in 2021 we hear and read the words ‘digital transformation’ as regularly as ‘BREXIT’. Businesses are ferociously making the transition to improve processes, productivity and overall performance, but as contradictory as it sounds – to be more digital you need the manual skills of people.

The skills gap in the UK alone has been well documented with jobs overwhelmingly outweighing demand and participation in digital skills training has declined, which is why it’s critical our workforce of tomorrow are fully digitally equipped.

’60 percent of businesses believe that their reliance on advanced digital skills is set to increase over the next five years, while 88 percent of young people realise that their digital skills will be essential for their careers’

Source: worldskillsuk.org

Faster internet speeds and technological developments have made participation in digital education easier than ever. However, in order to engage certain tools are required which not everyone has access to, which is why we’re delighted to support a local charity enabling more young people to learn online.

The Digital Divide

The first study of the digital divide was made by the US Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration – NTIA – in July 1995, a survey entitled Falling Through the Net. The survey introduced the concept of the haves and the have nots of information and communication technologies – ICTs.

Since that initial investigation there have been hundreds of subsequent studies, scholarly articles and debate around the numerous issues stemming from this complex, global matter.  Although ‘digital divide’ has multiple definitions, many with slightly differing emphasis, the overarching concern is that people without access to the Internet and other communication technologies will be disadvantaged. 

These individuals are unable or less able to obtain digital information, shop online, participate democratically, or learn new skills. Furthermore, without access one is effectively inhibited from participating as a digital citizen and from having any kind of digital presence. 

Digital transformation and the gradual integration of technology into all areas of business offers significant benefits to the individual, such as access to information and advice, broader options of products/services and is often cost saving. Imagine finding yourself in a scenario with no access to these – suddenly unable to research your dream home or make your next ASOS and Amazon purchases – for some the concept of a digital detox is appealing, but a ‘detox’ is normally suffice for a period of time not a lifetime.

COVID-19 and the digital divide

Concerns about the digital divide have grown significantly over the last year. The legislation implemented to manage the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vast numbers of families and individuals ill-equipped to transition seamlessly into the remote/online way of living we currently find ourselves in. Increasingly, the internet and digital devices have played an important role in allowing people to communicate, work, learn, access services, attend medical appointments and socialise. Education, in particular, has been seriously impacted:

“School closures and absences during COVID-19 have necessitated home schooling and online distance learning. However, not all children have access to the devices and internet connections needed for remote schooling. An Ofcom survey from Jan – March 2020 found that 9% of households containing children did not have home access to a laptop, desktop PC or tablet.”

Source: post.parliment.uk

This Ofcom finding reflects no access to a single suitable device for learning, but keep in mind that any household with less devices than children will be struggling to maintain their schooling. It’s essential that every child has the means to obtain the best possible education, regardless of location, age, race or socioeconomic status.  

Time to Level Up

As often seems to be the case in times of need, many have taken it upon themselves to do what they can to help and support those adversely affected by these extremely difficult and unpredictable circumstances. Level Up Laptops is a vitally important campaign that provides children in the Brighton area with the necessary resources to support remote learning and longer term educational needs:

“We want to ensure children from all backgrounds have the same access to learning and educational resources during and after these challenging times.” 

There are three ways you can help support this pioneering campaign:

  1. You can give towards the cause by visiting: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/leveluplaptops
  2. You can donate your old devices such as unused laptops and tablets which will be refurbished, wiped and PAT tested before being distributed to partner schools
  3. You can purchase a new device and send it straight to Level Up Laptops by simply filling out the registration form 

Any sum can help to cover the cost of refurbishment or purchase of new IT equipment for local schools and will be gratefully received. All monies and donations go toward ensuring students have the necessary resources at their disposal to continue their education, encouraging them to thrive in our connected world.

Learning People proudly support Level Up Laptops and their efforts to improve accessibility to online learning for children in the Brighton and Sussex area.

As part of our commitment to the campaign our founder Patrick Aylmer donated and delivered new devices to Coombe Road Primary School.