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Inequality Makes Virtual Learning a Challenge

Technology has the potential to transform the education sector, but low digital literacy and a lack of internet-enabled devices hamper online participation. The pandemic has underscored basic inequality in the education sector: while distance learning and virtual classrooms have become the norm for learners with PCs, tablets and smart phones, there is an opportunity cost for learners who are not digitally enabled. On 30 September, the second wave of the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (CRAM) indicated that learners in South Africa will have lost 40% of school days in 2020 because of the pandemic.

According to Project Isizwe, only 10% of South African homes had affordable fixed internet in 2019, and the country’s 7.5 million lower-income earners pay 80 times more for internet access than their better-off counterparts. Tim Genders, COO of Project Isizwe and Chair of the Wireless Access Providers Association, asserts that data is the raw material of education and the impact of data price discrimination will lead to even greater inequality in the future. Rolling out fibre and fixed wireless technology to homes will bridge the gap to enable distance learning in the short term and ensure digital access for everyone at equitable cost. Rollout to 12 million homes over a decade would cost around R50 billion.

Source details: Trialogue Business in Society Handbook 2020