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Verizon Is Bringing 5G Technology to the Most Under-Resourced Students

With 5G wireless technology, doctors can perform remote surgeries on patients thousands of miles away without worrying about a lag. Basketball fans can scan the court with their phone and, using augmented reality, get players’ statistics in real-time as the game is in progress. And passengers can download movies in mere seconds while waiting to board their flights.

An estimated 20 times faster than its predecessor, 5G technology is the next phase of connectivity. It could transform how humanity interacts with the world, opening up countless opportunities for virtual reality, augmented reality, content delivery, education, and much more. It’s already reaching markets in parts of the United States, and will likely be in widespread use in 2020. Verizon is making sure under-resourced students are not left behind.

Around 10% of the US population lacks reliable access to the internet. For 3 million school children, this digital divide prevents them from reaching their full potential and can limit their educational and career opportunities, particularly in STEM fields. As 5G technology becomes the norm across the country, the digital divide could become even wider, posing a greater barrier to under-resourced students.

That’s why Verizon is working to get ahead of the curve, ensuring these students are not only not left behind, but are among the first to get access to this cutting edge technology.  

RDM_8823.jpgVerizon CEO Hans Vestberg & Pharrell Williams at Global Citizen Festival 2019. Credit: Ryan Muir

Through Verizon Innovative Learningwhich provides free technology, internet access, and immersive instruction in a classroom setting to students who would otherwise not have access to cutting-edge digital opportunities, Verizon has already begun to roll out 5G service to select middle schools. On the Global Citizen Festival stage on Sept. 28, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg, along with artist and activist Pharrell Williams, announced Verizon's commitment to bringing 5G to 100 Verizon Innovative Learning Schools across the country by 2021, introducing students to vast new learning experiences and tools.

“5G technology will provide extraordinary opportunities in education,” said Rose Kirk, Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer, Verizon, in a press release. “The students and teachers in our Verizon Innovative Learning Schools will be at the forefront of this innovation and among the first to explore these transformative 5G learning solutions.”

VZ_90911_75_03_190205_KZ_COLORADO_0418_RGB_v2_72dpi.jpgcredit: Verizon

Verizon Innovative Learning programs give students access to learning experiences that could set them on the path toward highly rewarding careers. Students can learn about various computer coding languages, robotics technology, augmented reality, and virtual reality. Past classes have allowed students to develop video games, fully functioning robots, and more.

Earlier this year, the 5G EdTech Challenge awarded a total of  $1 million in grants to organizations who have created AR and VR experiences, machine learning, AI and mixed reality projects that have the ability to solve for student engagement, teacher preparedness and special needs support through the power of 5G.  

One organization is using augmented and virtual reality tools to help kids in K-12 better understand robotics while data visualization program Mapper’s Delight, created by another Verizon grant recipient, brings rap lyrics to life in classes such as social studies and world history to provide highly engaging learning experiences.

“With the 5G EdTech Challenge the Rap Research Lab was able to develop and deploy the kind of project that young people typically only see in the movies,” Tahir Hemphill, creator of Mapper’s Delight, said in a statement. “Though digital technology is already a huge part of these students’ lives — Mapper’s Delight is a unique opportunity for them to not only get a glimpse of the future, but to expect the future to combine innovation and cultural relevance.”

Hemphill believes such innovative technology will help bridge the digital divide. “Bringing 5G to the classroom is helping us shift the narrative away from lack and division, and more towards opportunity, creativity, and equity,” he added.

These are the sorts of projects that will help students navigate the world of tomorrow. And as Verizon Innovative Learning helps break down digital divides in classrooms, students from all backgrounds will have a shot at succeeding.