BT provides 10,000 vouchers to help disadvantaged children access online learning
BT which has previously announced various education initiatives as part of its corporate social responsibility programme has now made an announcement that vouchers to give six months access to the BT Wi-Fi hotspot network will be distributed by the Department for Education to disadvantaged children.
Each voucher will allow up to three devices to connect to the BT Wi-Fi network for six months and the network consists of millions of hotspots once you add the BT Wi-Fi hotspot present in millions of BT hubs spread across the UK.?
Supporting children’s education in these difficult times is a major priority for BT. Through our Skills for Tomorrow programme, we already have a whole raft of fun and engaging online resources to help children learn at home. Offering up our Wi-fi hotspots estate will ensure that thousands more children will ultimately be able to keep up with their important digital learning and online schoolwork for the rest of term and over the Summer holidays as well as into the Autumn.Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer division
The use of Wi-Fi vouchers avoids some of the problems around contracts that would accompany a 4G router or fixed broadband but if the scale of the problem for children across the UK is anywhere like what is being discussed recently this is just a small part of the puzzle.
There are other things happening but we would urge politicians of all sides to consider not just the next few months but help for children on a permanent basis to ensure that they are not left behind in the school system and help to break the ugly cycle of poverty.
The Government will do everything possible to make sure no child, whatever their background, falls behind as a result of coronavirus. We have committed over ￡100 million to support pupils with remote education, including to provide laptops, tablets and 4G wireless routers to disadvantaged children and young people, and this initiative will build on that work. High quality internet access will continue to play an important role for children and families as we work towards pupils returning to schools in September, and I am hugely grateful to BT for their support in delivering this scheme.Nick Gibb, School Standards Minister
Apparently DfE has supplied 50,000 4G routers so far, but we do not know what this means in terms of actual usage e.g. are there costs for parents to keep the usage allowance topped up.
There is something unsettling about the commercial sector stepping in to donate vouchers and other charities having to work to address digital poverty in the UK. This is not a new situation and is the result of policies spread across many different Parliaments but the future is the children's and investment in that will reap dividends in the long term.
Digital poverty existed before the pandemic but the coping strategies some families and children had developed fell apart during lockdown e.g. doing online homework in after schools clubs or round a friends. With the economic impact for many set to continue for a long time and even where parents can return to work there will be deferred bills that need to be paid back and the likelihood is that many will have lower incomes.