Over the years, Utah has earned a couple of “titles.” In 2014, the Beehive State ranked first when it comes to homes with a computer. Nearly 95 percent of the population had one. That’s several percentage points higher than the national average, which was only 88 percent.
One can also assume that Utah residents might also have plenty of other devices lying in their homes. According to a Deloitte study, a US household owns an average of no fewer than ten connected devices.
That’s not all. Several may also be changing their devices regularly. The average waiting time right now is three years, although fans of iPhones may do it more quickly, like annually.
Depending on how these people value their devices, some may be sold or traded in the market. Others will sadly find their way into the landfills or hopefully in recycling facilities.
But people in Utah with damaged devices but who want to make the most of these gadgets may seriously consider bringing them to phone repair services instead. These could help many children who are struggling to get online education access.
Inequitable Online Education Is in the US
Even before the pandemic, millions of children around the world don’t have the same access to high-quality education. In 2017, UNESCO revealed that at least 260 million kids globally don’t go to school.
But the COVID-19 virus brought to light a couple of facts about the inequitable access to education. The pandemic forced over a billion students in 191 countries to stay at home as schools closed. However, over 800 million children don’t have any access to a computer. About 40 percent do not have Internet in their home.
Even more glaring, in more developed nations like the United States, many children cannot go to school or are likely to experience learning gaps and losses. According to USA Facts:
- Of the over 50 million households in the United States with children, only 74 percent could access a computer for educational reasons in September. Fewer than 20 percent could do so most of the time.
- Around 4.4 million households or 8 percent sometimes reported, rarely, or never using a computer.
- Only 60 percent of the students received devices from the school district or the school itself.
- When it comes to Internet access, only 17 percent could use it most of the time. Nearly 4 million households said that they used the Internet sometimes, rarely, or even never.
- For households with Internet, fewer than 2.5 percent received it from their school district or the children’s school.
- A whopping 3.7 million households with students still don’t have any Internet access.
Why Is This Happening?
It’s a combination of many factors:
1. Many Areas and People Don’t Have Internet
In its eighth broadband progress report, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said that, despite the progress made in improving Internet connectivity in the United States, many homes still don’t have the service.
About 6 percent or almost 20 million Americans may have Internet access, but the speed is not up to par with the ideal threshold speeds. In the rural areas, at least 25 percent don’t have any Internet.
The percentage gets worse in tribal groups, where over 30 percent cannot access online. Meanwhile, in places where subscription services are available, around 100 million failed to do so.
2. Not Everyone Can Afford to Buy a Device or Pay for Internet
The uneven access to the Internet for education in the United States may also be due to the costs of the services and devices—things that many low-income families cannot afford.
In the country, the average price for an Internet connection is $35. However, most pay at least $60 per month.
In places like Wyoming, residents shell out nearly $8 for every megabit per second. The average Internet speed here is 25 Mbps, which means an Internet service could cost at least a hundred dollars a month.
On the other hand, essential online learning devices like laptops can set back any family’s budget by at least $600 for a good unit. Used units have lower prices, but they can still be worth at least $300, which parents need to pay in full.
3. There’s Not Enough Supply
During the early days of lockdown, many children and teachers miss school because there are not enough available devices.
In the data shared by the Hechinger Report, at least 19,000 students in NYC didn’t receive any device over a month after the shutdown. In California, over 1 million public school students didn’t have a device or Internet access by April.
The problem of inequitable access to online learning, especially in the United States, is something no ordinary resident in the Beehive State can resolve on their own. It requires better policies and support from the federal and state governments.
However, people in Utah can still help by supporting organizations that provide what’s lacking in the country’s educational system until the chronic problem gets fixed. Devices for Students currently accepts used laptops and WiFi hotspots, while platforms like Cashify allow one to donate old mobile devices like phones.