Among the many things that were brought to light during the pandemic is the vast inequity that exists in our society when it comes to connectivity. With essentially every person coming into contact with some form of virtual interaction over the last year and a half, it became glaringly obvious what a negative impact a lack of reliable internet access could have on a person. It means fettered access to everyday necessities like healthcare, workplace collaboration, and maybe most notably, education.
As students were forced to quickly pivot to online learning platforms all around the world, their respective connectivity access was not necessarily considered, widening the digital divide. It also shed light on something FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel calls the Homework Gap. Rosenworcel and the FCC intend to fill this gap via the E-Rate program and other offshoot programs like the Emergency Connectivity Fund, designed to assist schools and libraries and offer the tools and services needed to their communities during the pandemic.
“During this pandemic, studies have demonstrated that almost 17 million students lack broadband at home,” stated Rosenworcel in a video from the FCC about the Emergency Connectivity Fund. “They’ve not only struggled with evening homework; during the day, they’ve been locked out of the virtual classroom and unable to participate in remote learning. I believe this Homework Gap is the cruelest part of the digital divide. We need to fix it.”
Will Reid, Education Program Manager, Public Sector and Vertical Markets at SYNNEX Corporation, offered his knowledge on the shifting demands around connectivity in education and how Cisco partners factor into that equation in a recent interview. “By creating equity with connectivity, we can help maintain the continuity for students to succeed,” he said.
To better prepare partners for the new scope of connectivity needs across the education sector, Meraki produced a webinar series titled “Future-Proof the Classroom,” focusing on solutions that support the E-Rate program. This series includes insights about high-density wireless capabilities, scalable switches, and network security, all key components of the classroom of the future (and present). A strong working knowledge of these solutions and how they play into the goals of the E-Rate program is key for Cisco partners, as their customers navigate this new territory for students and educators.
“COVID-19 pushed schools 10 years into the future with device adoption,” Reid stated. “We must maintain that continuity of learning, no matter how it looks and no matter a student’s personal situation. Moving forward, connectivity will be at the forefront for the education world.”
To learn more about how you can help your customers strategically engage with the E-Rate program to battle the Homework Gap and narrow the digital divide, reach out to Reid at firstname.lastname@example.org or the EDGE Progression Program team at email@example.com.