An initiative to help bridge the digital divide, particularly in regional areas, has helped 250 students stay connected during the pandemic.
Optus general manager for southern NSW Matt Connell said the COVID-19 has shown how work and study is increasingly reliant on the internet and without it some young people are unable to access the same opportunities.
He said the Smith Family and Optus have teamed up to help bridge the gap and ensure Wagga students experiencing disadvantage have extra support to stay connected and in school.
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"The initiative allows our customers to donate some of their data," Mr Connell said.
"The Smith Family found the 250 students and they get a Prepaid SIM with data, unlimited calls and text. They can also receive added data boosts when customers make donations."
Fiona Carroll, the family partnership coordinator for The Smith Family at Wagga, said all eligible students are offered the opportunity to join Optus's Donate Your Data program.
"The initiative makes it easier for local Wagga students who are experiencing disadvantage to stay engaged with their learning when away from classroom, stay connected, and achieve in their schooling," she said.
"This is especially important right now with the potential impact of the pandemic on learning over the past two years, as we know when students experiencing disadvantage fall behind at any point, they are less likely than others to catch up again, and they need as much support as possible."
Ms Carroll said a lot of parents and carers she work with have told her the initiative gives them peace of mind not just financially but also emotionally, as when their child has data, they can be in contact more throughout the day.
"We're really grateful for this as we know this support can be life-changing," she said.
To contribute to the initiative as an Optus customer, SMS the word 'donate' to 4567 or go to the app.
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