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Consenna and Microsoft look to bridge education digital divide

Channel player creates initiative that should put quality tech into the hands of one million students over the next year

Consenna is working with Microsoft to try to tackle the digital divide that has emerged in the education market during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The channel player, which has a strong track record of devising programmes with leading vendors in the education market, is launching its Device for Education initiative.

The idea is to get one million students hooked up with a device in the first year, with options for outright ownership, leasing or via a parental contribution model.

Over the last year, the education shutdowns caused by the pandemic highlighted the importance of technology in supporting learning as well as widespread disparities in access to tools.

“Increased attention on the vital role of technology in teaching and learning over the past year has shone a light on the mismatch of devices that students use and the challenges that this creates for IT leads and teachers,” said Simon Yates, chief operating officer at Consenna. “It has also highlighted that far too many students continue to have no access to a fit-for-purpose device at all.

“We wanted to do something positive to make a difference and address this imbalance, but knew that any workable solution not only needed to be simple, affordable and sustainable, but that it also had the backing of the IT community. To have Microsoft as the initiative’s principal partner gives Devices for Education the energy and influence needed to make a real difference.”

A partnership with Microsoft gives access to a fair amount of muscle and the firm is coming with the support of hardware partners HP and Tactus/GeoBook, as well as its own Surface line. It has also has a range of partners that can deliver systems on call, including Beeso IT, System Active, Total Computers, Academia, Stone, TME, XMA, Computacenter and BT.

“The important role technology plays in education has never been more visible, or critical, than it is now,” said Chris Rothwell, director of education at Microsoft UK.

“Consenna has an unrivalled understanding and appreciation of how the IT channel can work effectively with the education community, so it came as no surprise that they took the bull by the horns to develop Devices for Education.”

Yates said the idea of a programme like this was perhaps not unique, but it felt like it was approaching the market with a different proposition.

“While other 1-2-1 and leasing programmes exist, there are several key differences with Devices for Education,” he said. “Not only is it equitable in ensuring that every student has access to a device of the same standard, but it is entirely transparent from a cost and device lifecycle management perspective.

“We don’t believe that schools in England have been presented with such a straightforward approach to 1-2-1 procurement before now.”

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