University to provide 1,500 laptops and 4,000 internet connection packages to improve digital equality
Auckland University of Technology has found that thousands of its domestic students do not have home internet access or the basic computer equipment required to switch to online learning in response to Covid-19 restrictions.
A four-week survey found that 17 per cent of students did not have a home internet connection and 6 per cent did not have a laptop or home computer they could use to access online courses.
Vice-chancellor Derek McCormack said that digital equality among AUT students had “never been more critical” as the university prepared to move its courses online so that students could study at home during New Zealand’s Level 4 and 3 lockdown periods.
He said the university would provide up to 1,500 laptops and more than 4,000 internet connection packages to improve digital equality for its domestic students.
“AUT is deeply committed to being a university of access and inclusion. Around 20 per cent of our students live in parts of Auckland that score 9 or 10 on the New Zealand Deprivation Index,” he said in a university statement.
“Supporting our students is at the heart of our decision-making…[and] we are committed to ensuring that all our students have the best chance possible to achieve their educational goals.”
The university worked with the AUT Student Association to conduct the survey and to identify and discuss student needs during the country’s Level 4 lockdown. Most campuses are closed and have developed online resources for students.
The association’s president Sisifa Lui said digital access was a critical issue for many AUT students.
“We are pleased concerns about digital access have been addressed as Covid-19 presents uncertainty and difficulties for our students. The Student Association recognises students will be relieved with this support to ensure their online learning is successful.”
Government data show that around 30 per cent of New Zealanders are “digitally excluded”, with no access to the internet or computer equipment. The most disadvantaged are Māori, Pacific Islanders, low-income communities and people living in public housing and rural areas.