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January 08, 2013

UK, US Both See 'Digital Divide' Among Younger Students

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

The digital divide – among youngsters – is seen even among wealthier nations. The lack of technology access is well known in the developing world, but is more of a surprise in wealthier nations.

For example, a recent survey showed one-third of the United Kingdom’s “poorest” pupils do not have Internet access at home. A similar percentage does not have a computer at home, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

But children living in the U.K.’s wealthiest households have Internet access.

Valerie Thompson of the E-Learning Foundation told the BBC that pupils without Internet access at home "lose out big time.” They cannot access school websites nor can they research homework.

They especially can’t submit assignments digitally or get online feedback from teachers.

"Poverty is clearly a factor in poor access to digital learning technologies and poor performance at school. The link between the two cannot be ignored," she said.

In the poorest U.K. homes surveyed, some 29 percent did not have a computer, 36 percent had no Internet service, and 43 percent did not have an Internet connection through a computer. This means some 750,000 pupils are in households without Internet, and some 650,000 are in households without a computer.

One partial solution may be housing providers to install Wi-Fi for lower-income tenants and another is for schools to purchase laptops for the poorest students, according to a U.K. proposal.

In the United States, another option for poorer households is Comcast's (News - Alert) Internet Essentials program. Approximately 100,000 households nationwide signed up for the program in its first year. The service is $9.95 a month. A low-cost computer is $150, under the program. The program is available to families with children who receive or are eligible for the National School Lunch Program, or reduced-price lunch. 

Some 2.3 million U.S. families nationwide meet the income eligibility requirements, TMCnet reported.

In addition, some 65 percent of the world’s population of 7 billion was not using the Internet in 2011, according to UN estimates.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

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