No WiFi? No problem if these buses with hotspot are parked in your neighbourhood
Access to internet has become an essential need for many, including students, as people are locked down inside homes due to coronavirus pandemic. With schools shut, increasing number of students are depending on internet to attend online classes.
This new normal is not only true for India, but for students across the world. And the US has found a solution to areas with lack of access to internet. School buses.
Enabled with wireless internet routers, these school buses work as hotspots. It is a similar concept to the complementary internet access one gets in an app-based cab like Ola or Uber. The only difference is the number devices it can support.
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Millard School District in Delta, US, has deployed several such school buses in neighbourhoods where students don’t have internet at home. With no students to ply during shutdown, this ploy has worked to allow students access internet to attend classes. More than 50% of the 3000 students at this school are from families considered economically weak. The authorities have deployed 11 of the district’s 36 buses equipped with WiFi for them.
This experimental ploy has worked for many students in the region, and has served as a solution where connectivity is scarce. Similar plans can be executed elsewhere by using this quick-fix method to enable people with internet access.
In India, several schools have started online classes for students as the lockdown has forced shut institutions till at least May 3. The new calendar year has already started for most schools.
It is difficult to give an estimate how many households in India have access to fast internet at home. But it is certainly not enough to hold online classes for students who have gone back home. According to the National Sample Survey, only 27% of Indian households have some member with access to internet. And it does not necessarily mean internet at home. Only 47% have any access to internet own a device. There is also an urban-rural divide when it comes to internet access. In urban areas, 27% have internet access and only 5% in rural areas.
While authorities have not yet come up with a plan to tackle the issue in the time of crises, this 'internet-on-wheels' type of system could help students to an extent.