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Closing the digital divide during COVID in Ireland

While COVID-19 restrictions forced the closure of college campus locations across Ireland, colleges themselves remained open requiring many thousands of students to attend lectures and study remotely. It quickly became evident that there were many students without access to computer devices, leaving these students at a disadvantage.

In response, a new scheme was announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, to provide €168 million of funding for third level institutions and students. Notably, this new scheme included €15 million to help address the digital divide and give students the tools they need to continue their education. Following a tender process, Dell Technologies was selected to provide desktop and laptop computer devices.

Over a period of just eight weeks, national research and education network HEAnet partnered with Dell Technologies to supply over 16,700 students from 36 Universities, Institutes of Technology, and Education & Training Boards. The laptops included a number of different configurations in response to specific needs and requests from the various institutions.

Pandemic demonstrates the importance of connectivity

By leveraging Dell Technologies’ global logistics supply chain, the HEAnet request was accelerated and students across the country started receiving devices from early September 2020 to coincide with the beginning of the academic year. HEAnet also relied on essential support from both Intel and Microsoft in terms of sourcing requisite processors and software licenses.

“Dell Technologies is proud to have supported the HEAnet on this initiative to ensure all students had access to the technology they need to allow them to fully participate in their courses in a remote learning environment. The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of connectivity and access and the risk to those in our society if they are not connected”, says Jason Ward, Vice-President and Managing Director, Dell Technologies Ireland.

A blueprint for the future

The expedited delivery represents a collective success for the sector, with Universities, Institutes of Technology, and Education and Training Boards aggregating need and working together.

“Aggregating multiple client needs in this manner has allowed HEAnet to offer a far superior service over that of clients facing the challenge alone. I believe that this bulk aggregation approach serves as a blueprint for a future way of working more effectively and efficiently. HEAnet would like to thank all those parties who made this expedited delivery a success and we wish the student users of these laptops every success in their future studies,” says HEAnet CEO, Kerrie Power.

In another response to the COVID situation, HEAnet has recently partnered with Enet, Ireland’s largest open-access network operator, to deliver high-speed connectivity to schools across the country. More than 600 primary and post-primary schools use the Enet network for online education. The new HEAnet-Enet collaboration will provide bandwidth upgrades ensuring that schools all over the country will have access to the bandwidth they need, having speeds of up to 500 Mbps.

 


Published: 02/2021

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