Building on efforts to tackle digital poverty, Jisc has written to the Local Government Association, urging authorities to provide free internet access to students in public spaces via our eduroam connectivity service.
Councils that are already using Jisc’s govroam public sector roaming service are being invited to enable eduroam, a service developed for the education sector that connects millions of students and staff at universities and colleges nationwide.
This initiative has the potential to make eduroam available in thousands of public spaces across the country - such as libraries, community centres and public halls - extending access to ‘zero touch’ internet connectivity.
Jisc’s CEO, Paul Feldman, says:
“We see this as a springboard to bring about exciting collaborations between Jisc, local government, and national government. A lack of access to quality, inexpensive connectivity affected many learners during lockdown - and this issue isn't going away. It's crucial we come together to address this, moving quickly and creatively. Extending internet access in public spaces is one solution, which we really hope local authorities will work with us to deliver.”
The impact of data poverty became clearer during university and college site closures and COVID lockdowns, with many students unable to access reliable connectivity or a suitable study environment, despite the government’s ‘Get help with technology' scheme. In fact, Jisc’s recent student digital insights survey found that 62% of students in higher education (HE) and 36% in further education (FE) experience poor wifi connection, and 22% in HE and 15% in FE struggle with mobile data costs when learning online.
Yet students in England are increasingly studying online or choosing more remote and flexible models. To overcome the digital poverty barrier and make learning as accessible as possible, wherever it takes place, we need to offer the best possible digital environment, Feldman reflects:
“Throughout the pandemic, Jisc has worked with the Department for Education and national education sector bodies to help find ways to support college and university students. We are now looking for support in tackling digital and data poverty. We see this as a great opportunity for Jisc to work closely with local authorities in a collaboration that we hope will help improve digital connectivity for all citizens.”