Seventy two percent of U.S. schools have slow, out-of-date internet access, or worse, none at all. As technology continues to infiltrate classrooms, this is becoming a serious issue. Broadband internet has become an integral part of a student’s educational experience, yet many children do not have access to it at school or in their home.
The term digital divide is used to describe the growing gap between those who have access to the most revolutionary technological advancement in recent history, also known as the internet, and those who do not. This divide is often attributed to economic or geopolitical issues, but is often overlooked in the U.S. school system.
The internet continues to be an increasingly valuable and necessary resource for a student’s success. Students in schools without access to broadband are unable to access cutting edge, web-based learning tools. They also don’t have a chance to strengthen their computer literacy skills, which will benefit them far beyond the classroom.
A group of Silicon Valley billionaires have attempted to address this problem by investing in the non-profit EducationSuperHighway to help schools bridge this technology gap. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Startup:Education fund and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with several other foundations and education entities, have collaborated to provide $9 million in funding to the non-profit. EducationSuperHighway’s goal is to provide broadband to the 40 million students in schools without adequate internet access, one of the most important tools in a student’s learning.
They are not the only ones that want to support students’ 21st century learning needs. Earlier this year, President Obama stated that his goal is for all K-12 schools in the United States to be connected to high-speed internet within five years. Additionally, the President wants to reconstruct the nation’s E-rate initiative, a $2.4 billion federal program to bring every school and library in America into the information age.
By 2020, EducationSuperHighway CEO Evan Marwell expects they will be able to identify which schools need upgrading and secure the funding from E-rate to make the necessary broadband and wifi upgrades that schools so desperately need.
Other organizations, such as Internet.org, are trying to bring affordable internet access to those who don’t have it worldwide. According to the organization, which Mark Zuckerberg also supports, two thirds of the world’s population doesn’t currently have access to the internet. Internet.org is trying to bridge this gap by bringing together technology leaders, nonprofits, local communities and experts.
EducationSuperHighway is only a small step toward bridging the digital divide, but many believe the internet plays a vital role in education, both nationally and worldwide.
According to Mark Zuckerberg, “The future of our economy and society depends largely on the next generation using and building new online tools and services, and I’m glad to support EducationSuperHighway.”