Schools Work to Defeat the Digital Divide and Provide Reliable Internet Access for All
As technology continues to transform our lives, access to the digital world has become increasingly important in education. But with 42 million people across America unable to purchase internet access, roughly 16 million K-12 students lack reliable digital connections to their schools.
This Digital Divide is a widespread issue that affects students from all backgrounds and income levels whose internet access is limited, unavailable or unaffordable. It spans from underserved urban centers to affluent-but-remote locales. No matter where it occurs, it has many economic, educational, and social implications for kids in K-12 schools especially, as that’s where most of them receive the foundation to build and navigate a digital future.
Many factors can influence the quality of connectivity a student has access to — from geographic barriers such as mountains, trees, and remote locations without established cellular infrastructure, to economic obstacles that prohibit a family from being able to pay for service. Family backgrounds can also affect digital connections. First-generation families and those for whom English is not the first language often experience a lack of access to the internet and mobile phones that allow others to connect and communicate with their children’s schools.
Today, thousands of students rely on public computers or unreliable Wi-Fi signals to achieve these connections. Many others, especially those living in remote areas or under the poverty line, do not even have those options. That’s why it’s so important for schools to address the Divide and help bridge the gap to provide equal opportunities for students in all areas and from all backgrounds.
School districts are quickly realizing that students without sufficient access to reliable high-speed internet are at a significant disadvantage. In addition to being unable to complete assignments and continue their education remotely if needed due to illness or other events, students with limited access to digital communications such as email and instant messaging can be excluded from engagements, opportunities, and social interactions that are important during school and also when applying to college or entering the workforce.
Superintendents and their technology departments who recognize this need are turning to new solutions and technology partnerships to Defeat the Digital Divide. By implementing innovative options including private cellular networks and constructing their own private Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks, they are bringing vital internet connectivity to all of their students to ensure everyone has equal access at school and at home. Recent government funding opportunities have made these initiatives cost-effective, attainable solutions for schools across the country.
Closing the Digital Divide through private network solutions also helps school leaders create a controlled learning environment by creating connections that block out social media and other sites that could interfere with learning. Unreliable internet connections can also pose a threat to the cyber security of school networks, as they can be easy to hack.
To assess the Digital Divide in their districts, school officials can conduct a network audit to evaluate the digital carriers in their area and gauge the effectiveness of their connectivity. The audit can also identify families who may need more assistance in establishing a reliable connection so their needs are met.
Ensuring that everyone has access to high-speed internet is a technical, logistical, and economic challenge. Defeat the Digital Divide is an education website that offers a variety of resources to help school officials gather knowledge and identify opportunities to provide students with the connectivity they deserve by putting the proper network in place.
These tools include:
Once a district has determined the best solution for its needs, a technology partner can help navigate through the process for the most seamless implementation possible, to enhance the capabilities for reliable connectivity and establish a solid path to digital confidence for students that can carry through the rest of their lives.