What does the government’s super-fast approach to gigabit-capable digital infrastructure mean for the education sector?
The Queen recently delivered her annual speech for the commencement of Parliament which, as expected, was mainly dominated by the issue of Brexit. However, with the deadline for the UK’s exit from the EU fast approaching, the government policies that were outlined also looked ahead to a post-Brexit Britain and the key measures that will help to revitalise and strengthen the economy.
One of the key points laid out in the Queen’s speech, alongside planned legislation for pensions, transport networks and employment, was the government’s plan to accelerate the rollout of full fibre broadband across the UK. This is a vital step to ensure that the new “Technological Revolution” is experienced by all, and not just a select few postcodes. This is backed up by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent pledge to introduce full fibre broadband connectivity for all by 2025.
While this will be easier said than done – requiring tens of thousands of engineer visits every day – the ambition is still important; a recent Ofcom report from May 2019 revealed that 93% of British properties are still without access to gigabit-capable, full fibre broadband, which puts them on unequal footing with select households, businesses and schools that have already been kitted out with upgraded broadband connectivity.
So, what does all of this mean for schools? The key thing to take away from the Queen’s speech and the current government’s plan is that greater digital connectivity is certainly a concern, though it may take some time to implement. The education sector has unique challenges and requirements when it comes to IT, and schools should be doing all they can in the meantime to ensure that they are appropriately equipped while upgrades to the national infrastructure are rolled out.
Fast and reliable broadband speeds allow schools to manage their administrative, accounting and budgeting systems more efficiently and reliably, improving and streamlining the workload of back office support staff. Teachers are also directly affected by changes to a school’s digital infrastructure. Whether using online resources during lessons or planning lessons in the first place, teaching staff require broadband connections that are fast, consistent and secure. Tight cyber security and dependable connectivity are also vital in schools where teaching resources have moved to a cloudbased system, allowing staff to work effectively and securely, both in school and remotely.
All these concerns are especially crucial for rural areas, where primary and secondary schools face being left behind the urban centres due to lack of funding and inferior internet access. What is often forgotten by some is that modern schools have as much a need for connectivity, cyber security and dependable computing as any business. Education, after all, is one of the cornerstones of society and investment in the sector is vital for the benefit of future generations and protection of children against potential threats of cybercrime.
IT solutions for the education sector are certainly something that we at Cantium have extensive experience with. This is a sector with some of the most unique and pressing challenges, and as such requires effective digital infrastructure for IT, HR and finance. What Cantium provides is the expertise needed to drive improvements, create efficiencies and generate savings that can transform schools for the better. In addition, we also provide upgrades to security measures such as firewalls, anti-spam filters, content filters and VPNs, which aren’t provided as standard by a lot of providers.
With some areas of the UK feeling left out of the current “postcode lottery” for ongoing national broadband upgrades, school boards should be doing what they can to seek IT service providers that can better equip and future-proof their schools with the necessary IT infrastructure requirements. While better connectivity and gigabit-capable broadband for all may very well be on the horizon, now is definitely the time for schools to be taking these first important steps towards meeting the demands of the modern digital revolution.