Shepparton families benefit from ground-breaking digital trial
Melbourne, Friday 24 April 2020: One hundred families and students from Greater Shepparton Secondary College have been connected to an Australian-leading digital trial which will look at the impact internet access has to their lives.
Telstra, together with RMIT University and Greater Shepparton Secondary College (GSSC), has provided one hundred free laptops and two years of wireless broadband to students and their families as part of the Telstra Connected Student project.
The two-year research project will examine the benefits of connectivity for families who could not previously afford it.
Telstra Regional Affairs and Sustainability Executive Jules Scarlett said the project would allow researchers to gain deeper insights into how important digital inclusion is and the difference being connected can make.
“This ground-breaking research will look at how being digitally connected can make a difference to lives and I’m thrilled we’ve been able to roll it out to students and families in Shepparton,” Ms Scarlett said.
“Telstra’s Connected Student research project will see us partner with RMIT and the school to understand the benefits technology and internet connection will have for year 11 students at Greater Shepparton Secondary College and their families.
“Telstra’s really proud that it’ll provide technology and internet connection to students and families who need it most to help them keep learning at home.”
The project builds upon the Australian Digital Inclusion Index, which in 2019 found that affordability continues to be a key barrier for improving digital inclusion in Australia.
By providing students and their families with laptops and mobile broadband devices, RMIT University lead researcher Dr Jenny Kennedy said the research project will provide much needed insight into how the challenges of affordability impact digital inclusion for low-income households.
“The everyday experiences of families who are on or below the poverty line are poorly understood and inadequately documented. What's more, the digital disadvantages these families face translate into social and educational disadvantages for their children,” Dr Kennedy said.
“We know from previous research that low-income households are especially vulnerable to digital exclusion, but this is the first time we will be able to examine what happens when affordability barriers are removed.
“The value of Telstra's program is that it enables us to actually measure how households and students fare when key affordability barriers are removed. We will be able to use this knowledge to better understand diverse participation needs, and to develop future digital inclusion strategies for low-income households.”
Greater Shepparton Secondary College principal Genevieve Simson says the project will provide significant support to Shepparton families who need it most.
“With the challenges presented by coronavirus, our partnership with Telstra and RMIT University could not have come at a better time for those GSSC students lacking laptops and internet access for home learning.”
“The immediate benefit for these students and their families is immense and we expect the long-term learnings from this research to be of great value to many others. GSSC is both pleased and proud to play a part in this project,” Ms Simson said.
The college has almost completed the laptop handout and researchers will begin contacting students and their families as part of the research program soon. The first research data is expected to be available in six months.
Telstra Media contact:
Matt Smithson – Telstra State Media Manager (VIC/TAS) – E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Media reference number: 037/2020