Building Affordable Solutions through Industry Collaboration
By Jeff Yee
VP, Innovation and Partnerships, ZTE USA
COVID-19 has changed how we work and now, how students learn. Online. Remote. From home. We are more reliant on the Internet and its services than ever, and right now, productivity and learning is taking a turn for the worst among those without internet access.
Now is the time to learn and plan for a better future. What do our school systems need? What do students need? How do we maintain education opportunities for every student?
When school districts require staff and students to remain home, remote learning programs are critical to education. Video conferencing on affordable laptops and tablets have grown in popularity in recent times. However, 14 percent of students in the U.S. still do not have Internet access at home. According to the 2018 U.S. Census, there are more than 76 million students in the United States, which means more than 10 million students do not have Internet at home.
The common reasons for the lack of Internet are accessibility and affordability. It is a challenge to keep 10 million students learning and engaged across the nation with new shelter-in-place policies. This challenge calls into question whether we are doing enough to ensure a better future for all.
The ultimate solution requires the collaboration of companies across industries. There are three major components for remote learning programs 1) hardware – a computer or tablet, 2) software – conferencing and education tools, and 3) connectivity – access to the Internet.
Bringing the telecommunications industry together, we can provide remote learning solutions that are affordable and reliable. ZTE and its partners have already proven that mobile hot spots, which support Internet connectivity, can be priced around $50 per household. Combined with a simple tablet at a similar price, a student has the basic technical hardware package for remote learning. In addition, government programs and carrier subsidies are designed to offset wireless service for low-income families to ensure equal access.
It would cost $1 billion to supply 10 million students with affordable remote learning solutions – a reachable number if we work as responsible collaborators. We are hopeful that our industry and leaders will take the call to keep every student connected in the United States.