A new campaign aiming to provide Internet access at home to the poorest children in the UK launched this month to address inequalities in digital access that can affect a child's academic development.
Despite the fact that schools regularly expect home Internet use for homework and revision, ~700,000 children in the UK cannot get online using a computer at home as shown by a recent study. By bridging the gap between those children who do and those children who do not have access to the Internet at home, Mind the Gap, a campaign being launched by the e-learning Foundation, in partnership with Quib.ly, a question and answer online community that addresses the issues of technology usage by families, is seeking to remedy the situation.
As Josie Gurney-Read of The Telegraph reports, the campaign hopes to target 100,000 children in the first year as schools sign up to the process. Funding for the project will come from corporate and individual donors and from school use of the Pupil Premium, which campaign advisers will help schools allocate effectively.
"We have already had offers," says Valerie Thompson, Chief Executive of the e-learning Foundation. "Kingston Communications have signed up, as have apps company Foldify. These offers will be delivered to schools to directly benefit these families."
"Over forty schools have already signed up," she continues. "A lack of online access isn't just holding the children back, it's holding the school back; until you can guarantee that every child can complete a piece of work on a computer at home, you can't encourage and embrace technology to its full in school."
Francesco Cardoletti, CEO of Quib.ly says: "The ultimate goal of this campaign is to make sure that every single child has access to the Internet at home. The goal is ambitious but it's not crazy.
"There are companies out there who would benefit from giving access to the Internet because they could increase their user base. If we pull all the right resources together, it's very achievable."
A correlation between improved results in school and the ability to access Internet based resources for extended periods of time was found by the research commissioned by the BBC and SAM learning.
Schools that have 100% of pupils with Internet access at home will be recognized as digitally inclusive, which is also part of the campaign. Registering to receive resources from the campaign can be done by schools that wish to reach the goal of a digitally inclusive designation.
"Technology is a fantastic tool," says Francesco. "A child today can get online, access information and subsequently their world becomes bigger.
"There is only so much you can do when your sources of information are so limited. The access to information that the Internet can provide makes children thirsty for more information; it broadens their horizons, improves their skill set and it makes them more curious."
"The acid test for Mind the Gap will really be in a year's time when we look again at the numbers," says Valerie. "But the more we can help and encourage schools the more likely the chance of closing the gap."