Funding of just over €570,000 has been made available to provide laptops and other IT devices for students at Dundalk Institute of Technology and other educational institutes run under the Louth Meath Education and Training Board.
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD confirmed the funding on Friday, which will see €257,000 made available for DKIT students as part of a new fund for student devices worth €15 million nationally.
The fund is part of a larger €168 million package previously announced to help further and higher education sectors deal with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. DkIT will receive €257,000 while the Louth Meath ETB will get €313,500 worth of funding.
The funding for access to ICT devices such as laptops and tablets is to assist students who will be undertaking courses online this year as remote learning becomes a larger part of the third level experience. Students in higher education institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support via their local access office.
The devices for DkIT will be distributed through a targeted lending scheme and will be overseen by the Student Access Office. The Louth Meath ETB management will oversee distribution in their schools and colleges.
The grant funding for the devices will be provided to Higher Education Institutions through the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and to Education and Training Boards through SOLAS. The bulk order of laptops was organised by HEAnet, which provides internet connectivity and ICT services to education bodies throughout Ireland.
It is estimated that the scheme will provide a total of 17,000 laptops and devices to students nationwide.
“The focus will be on ensuring disadvantaged students have access to the devices,” Minister Harris said. “But we must also recognise many students and their families have fallen on hard times as a result of Covid. We must ensure they don’t fall behind in their studies and ensure they can access this support fund also.
“We still have significant work to do to address the digital divide in Ireland but this will go some of the way to doing that.”