A new project to provide broadband to students is set to be trialled in Donegal.
The exploratory initiative seeks to deliver free broadband to second-level students from disadvantaged backgrounds for the duration of their time at senior cycle.
The Department of Rural and Community Development is working with Microsoft Ireland and the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) on the pilot initiative.
Plans are in place to use the existing high-speed broadband connection in five public libraries across five counties (Carlow, Donegal, Kilkenny, Mayo and Waterford), to deploy Microsoft’s cutting-edge Rural Airband technology to enable broadband to be delivered to up to 200 households – roughly 40 per county – which do not have good internet access.
The trial project will be targeted primarily at students in Delivering Equality of Opportunity (DEIS) schools. It aims to address connectivity barriers experienced by Leaving Certificate cycle students.
“In drawing on the existing high-speed broadband connection of libraries, the initiative offers an opportunity to target individuals for whom internet service is currently unavailable in the home,” said Mr Michael Ring TD, Minister for Rural and Community Development.
“This initiative will seek to offer more students the opportunity to avail of a range of distance learning activities, such as online learning and virtual classrooms, which are becoming an integral part of education provision in an increasingly digital age.”
The initiative will be reviewed on a 6-monthly basis, and learning from the pilot will help the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Local Government Management Agency to determine the effectiveness and potential scalability of using Airband as a connectivity solution for households with students in particularly hard to reach locations.
Welcoming the initiative, Microsoft Ireland Managing Director, Cathriona Hallahan said: “As Ireland increasingly becomes a digital society it is critically important that no citizen and no community is left behind. Connectivity is central to ensuring equal access and equal opportunity for all and that is why we are delighted to partner with the government to use our innovative TV White Space solution to help senior cycle students in rural communities get access to learning resources.”