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The University of Huddersfield buildings by the canal.
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The University of Huddersfield buildings by the canal.
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How Kirklees Council is tackling digital inequality through eduroam

Terence Hudson

The pandemic highlighted how differences in access to connectivity affects students’ chances. Terence Hudson, head of technology at Kirklees Council, explains how taking up Jisc’s offer of rolling out eduroam with govroam is helping the council tackle digital inclusivity and creating a long-term positive impact for the whole region.

This is a customer story.

When I found out that we could improve digital connectivity to all learners in the Kirklees area by adding eduroam to govroam at no extra cost, it was a really easy decision. 

The same access to connectivity

In Kirklees we have a big university – Huddersfield – and a number of colleges. We know many of those at the university live in Kirklees, have always lived in Kirklees, and will also be living at home. The same goes for the colleges. And we know that those students don’t all have the same opportunities to access the connectivity they need for their studies – the pandemic has certainly thrown those differences into sharp relief. 

As a council, you have to think, what can we do as the biggest consumer of internet services in the whole of the Kirklees to influence that? How can we work with the university to influence it as well?

You've got to think about the whole jigsaw: you need the connectivity, you need the kit and you need the skills. And you have to bring it all together to really make a difference. That's the journey we're on, and getting eduroam is an important part of that journey.

Internet connection wherever you are

Rolling out eduroam means that a large number of people who want to be able to access the internet, and access services closer to them wherever they are, will now be able to do so. If a student can drop into their local library, for example, and get great connectivity, that's fantastic. The impact on students who may not be able to afford the very best internet services will be tremendous.

Everywhere we put our internet services, we will include eduroam, just as we do with govroam. So it’s in the leisure centres, the libraries, our council offices, everywhere. And if it bleeds out of the building, you can access it in the street and from the bus stop while you’re waiting for your bus home. You’ll be able to access it in our care homes, so you can study while you’re visiting your nan, or care workers can study in their breaks.

Our next step on that journey is to use surveys and the third sector to find out exactly what people have in terms of connectivity, devices and skills, to see what more we can do. Take a small rural place, like Shepley, for example, that has a library. What more could we do there? What could we do in a densely populated place, like Batley, where people don't have the access that they need at home to study?

We need to think beyond buildings, too. We’re building a park between Huddersfield University and Huddersfield town centre and we’ll roll out eduroam there, too, so that students who want to go and sit in it in the summer will have great connectivity. 

Opportunities to be more inclusive

Fundamentally, it's the right thing to do. It’s about the future of the region. We want to make sure we give the people who live and study in our region the very best opportunities that they can access. That, in turn, will have a long-standing positive impact on our region.

It’s been simple to roll our eduroam from a technical perspective because we’re already on govroam and so the infrastructure is in place. We’ve just had to ensure that the council network and its assets are protected so that none of the traffic touches those. It’s not been difficult and the result is that we’ve become a more inclusive council. 

We've got to do everything we can to make our places more inclusive. We need to make sure that whatever we offer helps people feel as though they are included, because inclusion is about everybody. That's what's important. 

This is absolutely the right thing to do at this point in time. I’d urge every local authority to do the same.

Find out more

Learn more about Jisc's eduroam secure roaming service, which is available on the govroam network at no extra cost to all councils.

Interested in becoming a Jisc customer? Find out how we could help you with a tailor made offer to make your digital world easier to navigate. Contact customer.support@jisc.ac.uk to discuss your needs.