Tuesday, 31 January 2017

How Accessible is the Internet for our Rural Children?

We had our first staff meeting for this group of Principal's to make plans for the year ahead in our collaborative cluster of schools. 
So we got to talking about access to technology that is so important to providing the base from which we learn together. What do our children have available to them at school and at home in the form of computing devices and internet connectivity?
We estimated that in our schools the range of childrens' access to internet at home was 50% in one school through to 80% in another and several points in between for the rest. So still a clear digital divide for a lot of our learners. But the digital divide does not stop there. Although we can say our students have the internet at home, it is often still not accessible to them, or for very limited periods of time. ISP costs mean that data is carefully rationed and often only used by parents on their phones.
Although it is said that there is internet at home, children may only get to access the internet when they come to school. Given this scenario, it would be interesting to see the real data about how accessible the internet is to our children. I should include this as part of my research questions. I am sure it would be nowhere near Statistics NZ's number of internet enabled households. 

Principals from the Rural & Remote Project first staff meeting 2017
More than a dozen years since Project Probe was initiated specifically to serve these communities we still have broadband that is too expensive. This is very disheartening on the back of announcements that fibre will be coming to more of rural NZ. Good for those areas, it is good news for them, although the wait time is still up to 2024! However some of those areas (like my own) already have access to a reasonable copper network & VDSL. Our rural areas have no networks and have to rely on expensive & unreliable satellite service.

The next UFB rollout is aimed at provincial NZ where there are towns - I didn't see Whangamomona on the list (Whataroa, Tapora, Makahu or Oban). What about the rest of the rural NZ, what can be done to make Internet more affordable and accessible to our children there?
Post a Comment