Power NI has partnered with Business in the Community to call for employers to provide the hardware, data and digital skills needed to support young people to ensure they have the digital tools needed for learning.
This issue of Digital Divide and Access Poverty whilst critical before the pandemic, has been exacerbated by it, and will continue as we emerge from the crisis.
If every business in Northern Ireland could donate just one device, every young person who is struggling with digital connectivity could be supported.
Ofcom estimates that about 9% of children in the UK – between 1.1 million and 1.8 million – do not have access to a laptop, desktop or tablet at home. Many thousands live in a household with only a mobile internet connection meaning that they are unable to connect to their school, teachers or friends and may fall farther behind their peers.
The ‘disadvantage gap’ (disparity in learning and education outcomes between disadvantaged children and more affluent peers) is exacerbated during school holiday periods. Summer holidays can account for two thirds of the gap between rich and poor children at age 14. Not having access to devices/data to support ongoing learning throughout the school year can exacerbate this.
Business in the Community is working with businesses through its #DigitalDonationsAppeal to complement the work already being done by the Department of Education and the Education Authority to ensure support is provided to disadvantaged and vulnerable learners.
BITC is calling for businesses to support the Digital Donations Appeal in three ways:
William Steele, Power NI Customer Solutions Director said: “We are delighted to continue to power communities through our support for the Digital Donations campaign. Technology is a huge part of the energy sector and we want to help future generations have access to all opportunities available, allowing them to forge a career in their chosen field.”
Education Minister Peter Weir said: “I welcome this initiative and the support offered by BITC and their partners to complement the current DE schemes to provide digital devices, free wifi and mobile connectivity to children and young people, including those in rural settings, who may not have had access to digital technology.
“My officials, along with Education Authority colleagues, have been working closely with the BITC team to ensure devices are made available for those most disadvantaged and vulnerable learners.”
William Steele also contributed an interesting opinion piece on the Digital Divide today, for the BITC website which you can read here.
Visit www.bitcni.org.uk for more information on the Digital Donations Appeal or to offer your support.