Points of View

Some vendors are stepping up to the mark by providing free access to home learning tools. Other vendors must join in to prove they have delivery capabilities at scale, while helping others.


Many families are now stuck at home with kids who they must try to keep occupied and, hopefully, keep learning. Challenges have already emerged worldwide as educational institutions rapidly moved a heavily classroom-dependent environment to a remote one, often by cobbling a variety of tools and technologies together to buy time until they could implement better long-term solutions. However, some of the leading service providers have utilized their technical know-how and experience catering to the sector’s IT needs to rapidly evolve home learning solutions. The smart vendors will join them—with the certainty that their philanthropy will win them fans across the globe and prove they have the experience and technical expertise to bring solutions to market speedily in challenging circumstances.


Getting access can be a problem—IBM, Cisco, and TCS are working to solve that


The problem facing many families right now is twofold: getting access to teachers and resources remotely and learning how to use new software tools. Reports from parents relay a message of chaotic technology implementations to support home learning, with significant inconsistencies across the board. Anecdotal evidence from parents shows that some schools were up and running the day after the closures were announced, with a revised online timetable and tools for remote access available to all pupils. For others, resources weren’t available for such a quick turnaround, even with teachers and IT teams working tirelessly to do the best for their students.


But now, educational establishments have additional resources to pull from, thanks to firms such as IBM, Cisco, and TCS, which are giving away free access to their remote learning tools as children are forced to stay at home in the ongoing COVID-19-related lockdown. However, their efforts are a drop in the ocean compared to what is required globally to help millions of families who are staying at home.


Technology giants should be working on delivering scalable solutions in this environment to prove they have the brains and brawn to solve the challenges that a remote and distributed workforce is likely to have in a post-COVID-19 world. Traditional education systems aren’t the only areas likely to change during this crisis.


As of March 18, 107 countries have implemented national school closures


In recent conversations with enterprise executives, many have predicted a major shift in the way they go about doing business. Why—when they now know they can run a profitable business through decentralized and remote teams—would they go back to daily commutes to expensive offices in London? Similar thought processes are being discussed in boardrooms around the globe, albeit virtual ones. And businesses looking to implement long-term remote working solutions at scale will be looking for providers that have the capability and proof of delivery that working to solve home-learning challenges today would bring. Helping millions of children continue learning is a strong case study when pitching to manage enterprise services in which thousands of workers are now remote.


Regional disparities are creating a digital inequality—which COVID-19 will undoubtedly exacerbate


There is a strong argument that these same providers could solve some long-term societal challenges with the technologies and approaches they develop during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, there are challenges that have stumped philanthropists for decades that still need to be resolved.


In India, for example, according to The IAMAI (Internet and Mobile Association of India), only 54% of the population has internet access. The picture is even worse if you break this down to reflect both home broadband and mobile internet. The World Bank says only about 35% of the population in developing countries has internet connectivity, versus 80% in advanced economies. Further divided to reflect income groups in the US, for example, only 57% of households earning under $15,000 annually had internet access.


The Bottom Line: Smart providers will be working to solve challenges in the new pandemic-fueled remote learning environment, and in the process of paying-it-forward, they will be arming themselves to support the new distributed workforce.


The reality is that this crisis brings considerable opportunity for service providers and technology giants. There will undoubtedly be a major global shift in the ways we work, which will almost certainly require a new investment profile for modern businesses that shift at least some of their workforce to distributed, decentralized, remote working environments. The smart providers today are paying it forward and working to solve home-learning challenges, with a view to bringing unrivaled expertise in rolling out similarly complex and distributed solutions to remote working at scale once the pandemic abates but working environments remain.