Ready to go back to school

School aged kids in low income households are going to have access to affordable computers and connectivity when they head back to school this fall.

Rogers launched Connected for Success, a pilot program offering a $10 per month broadband internet connection, a $150 subsidized computer and software to residents of Toronto Community Housing. Rogers hopes to expand the program and Rogers’ President of Communications, Rob Bruce told The Canadian Telecom Summit in June that he would welcome other carriers to participate.

Most government programs that target the “digital divide” have looked at ways to narrow the gaps in coverage between urban and rural or remote geographies. Such programs have used government subsidies to stimulate supply based on geography, without regard to the ability to pay.

Regular readers know that Greg O’Brien of and I have been calling for a change in that focus. We have been advocating for leadership in targeted, affordable access, stimulating the demand side. More than eighty per cent of Canadian households subscribe to broadband internet, but that is heavily skewed by income. About half of Canada’s lowest income households have no computer, let alone a broadband connection.

Michael Powell of the US cable industry association said it best in May 2012: “A child without access to the Internet will find life increasingly difficult in the information age.”

With no national digital economy strategy to deal with this, it is gratifying to see the private sector step up with the leadership to help provide low income kids with access to the tools that most of us take for granted for success in school.

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