The Scale of the Problem
It’s a sad reality that a million children in the UK don’t have access to digital devices or the internet at home, according to a recent Ofcom report. That’s 6% of the country’s children. In a report by the Sutton Trust, 36% of teachers in England put that figure even higher, estimating that more than a third of their pupils don’t have a device they can use for home learning.
Several teaching bodies have spoken out about the ongoing issue of digital poverty. Anne Longfield, former Children’s Commissioner for England, said,
“The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the huge digital divide that exists in our country, and its impact on children’s education.”
The Association of School and College Leaders has also called for continued investment in digital infrastructure and support for families who lack access to digital resources.
Director of Learning and Educational Technology Services at the University of Edinburgh, As Susan Stewart, says,
“The pandemic has forced all of us to think more creatively and openly about how we use technology and the role it can play in helping learners, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
The Ongoing Impact of Digital Poverty in the UK
Post-Covid, digital poverty continues to have a profound impact on children’s education in the UK. With online learning becoming more prevalent in schools, children who lack access to digital devices and the internet are at a significant disadvantage. This can lead to lower engagement, motivation, and achievement levels in online classes.
As digital skills become increasingly important in the modern workforce, digital poverty can perpetuate cycles of poverty and limit social mobility, with those from disadvantaged backgrounds being the most affected. Addressing this issue is crucial to ensuring that all children have equal opportunities to succeed in a digital world.
Digital poverty can also limit social mobility, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, as digital skills become increasingly important in the modern workforce. The ongoing issue of digital poverty has been highlighted by the pandemic, which has forced the government and teachers to think more creatively and openly about how they can use technology to help learners, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Association of School and College Leaders has called for continued investment in digital infrastructure and support for families who lack access to digital resources.
To address the issue of digital poverty, both the government and the private sector have launched initiatives to provide devices and internet access to students in need. For example, the Department for Education’s ‘Get Help with Technology’ programme was launched in 2020 to give devices and internet access to disadvantaged children. The scheme has provided 1.3 million laptops and tablets to schools across the country.
The government has also launched a £400 million digital infrastructure fund to provide high-speed internet access to schools in rural areas.
Private sector companies are also taking action to address digital poverty. For example, Vodafone has donated 350,000 SIM cards to schools and colleges, enabling students to access the internet from home.
Tackling Digital Literacy
However, providing access to devices and the internet is not enough. Teaching digital literacy to students is essential, as it is a key life skill that will be increasingly important in the future. Many schools and organisations have recognised the importance of teaching digital literacy to students in need, offering programmes that teach skills such as coding, computer skills, and online safety.
As Amanda Spielman, Ofsted Chief Inspector, says,
“Digital poverty is a significant challenge to ensuring that all students are able to continue their learning journey.”
As technology continues to play an increasingly important role in education, addressing digital poverty will remain a pressing issue. We need to work together as a society to ensure that every child has equal access to the digital resources they need to succeed.
Transforming Young Lives
As technology continues to play an increasingly important role in education, addressing digital poverty will remain a pressing issue. The pandemic has highlighted the issue of digital poverty, but we need to work together continually as a society to ensure that every child has equal access to the digital resources they need to succeed.
At Bell Integration, we believe in the power of technology to transform lives, and we also recognise the challenges that digital poverty poses to education. Find out how Hamilton Rentals, a Bell Integration company, helped Capita to bridge the digital divide for young people in the London Borough of Barnet.