Smart Waterloo Region (SWR), in partnership with four local charitable foundations, has successfully secured enough money to cover internet costs for the students of 1,500 families in the Region.
With the abrupt closure of schools in the Region as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) have been working to find ways to support e-learning for their students.
As a part of this effort, 1,500 households in the Region were identified as requiring financial support in order to provide children and youth with access to technology to support their e-learning needs.
Thanks to the contributions of four local partners – The Cowan Foundation, The Fairmount Foundation, Astley Family Foundation, and Lyle S. Hallman Foundation – access to the internet through devices like hot spots and high-speed modems, and monthly service fees, will be covered through the end of summer.
“One of the most positive things to come out of this pandemic is seeing how our community comes together in times of need,” said Regional Chair, Karen Redman. “Keeping our children engaged and learning is crucial – and the Region is pleased that our Smart Waterloo Region network could help ensure every child has the access they need to make that happen.”
The SWR initiative took place during 2018/2019 in response to the Government of Canada’s Smart Cities challenge. The Region’s pitch, which came just shy of winning, centered on child and youth well-being, and brought together partners from across the Region, including the tech sector, non-profits, and government officials. The SWR initiative is set to relaunch in the coming months.
One of the key projects developed out of the SWR initiative was the need for enhanced internet access to support child and youth development in the Region, specifically for families living in lower socio-economic conditions. The sudden closure of schools provincially created an urgent need to deploy this service immediately.
The internet assistance is currently in the process of being deployed to families in
need through WRDSB and WCDSB. The technology will help children and youth access e-learning and mental health resources, as well as other virtual programming.