Research shows 'digital divide' closing as campaign makes fresh push
Lord David Puttnam launches the Mind the Gap campaign at Microsoft’s London offices this week (Tuesday January 14). It aims to finally close the gap and provide home internet access for the remaining UK children who do not have internet access at home and whose education is disadvantaged as a result.
The e-Learning Foundation, partner in the campaign along with the parent advice website Quibly, says that new data from the national Family Spending Survey suggests that the “digital divide” has narrowed, and it estimates that all school-aged children in the UK should soon be able to get online at home.
e-Learning Foundation chief executive Valerie Thompson commented: “This year’s data shows that the number of children who don’t have access to a PC and the internet at home has fallen below the half a million mark for the first time.
Closing the gap 'now a realistic objective'
“This is excellent news for the significant number of children who have suffered educational disadvantage by lacking home access to learning technology that most other children take for granted. It is now a realistic objective that every school-age child in this country can get online at home within the next 2-3 years.”
However, the e-Learning Foundation warns that although the statistics are encouraging, there are some outstanding issues:
- “Despite single parent families only accounting for 17 per cent of all households with children (1 in 6), children in single-parent households that are not online account for 42 per cent, nearly half, of the total number of digitally excluded children;
- “Lower income households still demonstrate a significant lower ability and/or willingness to get online at home. Only 57 per cent of the lowest 10 per cent of households with children, by income, have access to the Internet via a computer, and 72 per cent of the second lowest group;
- "Regional differences are less marked, but certain regions consistently occupy the bottom of the list, ie Northern Ireland (67 per cent of all households), the North East (72 per cent) and Scotland (72 per cent)."
Statistics show a strong link between poverty and educational disadvantage. The Mind the Gap campaign points out that in 2012 only 37 per cent of children eligible for free school meals got an A*-C grade in English and Maths compared to 63 per cent of all the other children – a 26 percentage point gap (source Department for Education, 2013). And research commissioned by the BBC (for revision website BBC Bitesize) and online revision service SAM Learning (conducted by the Fischer Family Trust) found a correlation between improved results and the ability to access Internet based resources for extended periods of time, rather than a defined period in a public library or the after-school club. UNICEF estimates that 12.1 per cent of children in the UK are living in poverty.