Calls for NI's tech community to combat children's 'tech poverty'

  • The British Red Cross (BRC) charity is working with the Education Authority and multiple community and voluntary groups in Northern Ireland to combat the issue of ‘technology poverty’ within homes across the country.

    Due to schools remaining effectively closed because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, many children have had to rely on tech devices to continue their lessons, via virtual classes and e-learning materials from their teachers.

    The consequence of lockdown has meant that if a young person lives in a home that does not have access to tech or broadband, they are at a disadvantage.

    There are numerous families in NI facing this problem, but BRC emphasised that children in asylum accommodation are particularly burdened.

    Many families in asylum support do not have the financial resources to buy laptops or commit to broadband contracts.

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    A spokesperson for BRC said that school and education “is the main way for children in asylum support to integrate with local communities. Not only does Covid-19 cut them off from their immediate neighbours, they are cut off from their school friends where they get the opportunity to develop their English and engage with the wider community.”

    The spokesperson added that presently there are about 160 affected households containing both primary and secondary school children.

    The charity has approached BCS (British Computer Society), the Chartered Institute for IT professionals to see if the local tech community can help with providing laptops and broadband connections.

    Paul Kelly from BCS commented: “The devices don’t have to be brand new, but the big problem is broadband. We think mobile is probably better given the temporary nature of their accommodation, but someone might have a better suggestion.

    “We are hoping that people or businesses will come forward with offers of assistance with equipment, offers to provide broadband access either free or at a discount, assistance with setting up the kit particularly in providing access controls to protect the children from inappropriate sites, or perhaps just a financial donation.”

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    For anyone wishing to get involved, please find more information on BRC’s website here or join their Every Refugee Matters Facebook community here. Donations can be made here.

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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