'Schools must drive broadband,' says expert

Schools and colleges must get fast connections if Broadband Britain is to succeed, an expert argues. It is another lesson from wired South Korea

The government should use the education sector to drive the rollout and take-up of broadband services, according to a member of the Broadband Stakeholders Group who has studied the success of broadband in South Korea.

Antony Walker, senior executive of information and communication technology at Intellect, believes the government should provide the funding to give high-speed Internet connections to schools and colleges across the UK.

"If I was part of the government, I'd put most of my eggs in this basket. I'd put a lot of my resources into putting meaningful bandwidth, such as 8Mbps or 32Mbps connections, into schools and educational centres," said Walker on Thursday.

He added that the government should also put a lot of money into the creation of educational content that is specifically designed to make use of a broadband connection.

Walker was speaking at the launch of a report into broadband in South Korea, where the take-up of high-speed Internet services is the best in the world. This report was written by the DTI Overseas Mission to South Korea -- of which Walker was a member - which was led by Brunel University and funded by the Department of Trade and Industry.

The team identified several factors behind South Korea's broadband success, including the pro-active stance taken by its government.

As well as providing hundreds of millions of pounds in loans and subsidies to broadband operators, South Korea's government used the education sector to drive interest in broadband. School teachers were encouraged to post homework assignments on the Web and pupils were often expected to submit their work by email.

This strategy paid off, according to the Brunel University/DTI report, by creating a feeling among parents that a home broadband connection would be of benefit to their children's education, while at the same time giving millions of children a taste of a high-speed Internet connection.

"Children got hooked on broadband at school. Then, when they went home, they found that a narrowband connection wasn't good enough," explained Jyoit Choudrie of Brunel University, another member of the South Korea mission.

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