A school in Utah has used technology to continuously track and add IT assets to their technology infrastructure, reducing their item losses, making annual audits easier, and being able to perform service and maintenance on time. The district has a large number of students, so the technology has been extremely helpful for reducing the time and effort required for item tracking and tracing.

Another large U.S. school district has been tracking over 40,000 IT assets and ensuring its assets are given due service on time. The system ensures easy custody verification and increasing accountabilities for all Chromebooks and Apple devices, resultantly reducing item loss for a longer IT asset lifecycle.

These examples have become increasingly prevalent across education and big districts across the U.S. – especially as boundaries between classrooms and digital space have been blurring since four years ago when we all lived through remote school due to the pandemic. It was a time that many schools realized that a move towards using technology – whether it be in the classroom or at home – was necessary for a 21st-century education.

As the CEO of an IT asset management company, I am constantly discussing with customers the role the pandemic played in our school districts. Many schools found it critical to embrace an IT strategy that was manageable and cost effective - and this need has not decreased but grown over the years following the pandemic as technology takes center stage in learning initiatives.

The move to a technology driven classroom though is not without its issues– including inventory management, tracking, and tracing, maintenance and more. Implementing an IT asset management (ITAM) system has become not a nice-to-have, but a must-have.

Often, during these conversations, the topic of equitable access to technology is brought up as the digital divide widens in many areas in the US. The discussion focuses on how it is not just a matter of convenience for schools, but how it fosters a prerequisite for inclusive learning environments for students.

An ITAM solution optimizes resource utilization in underfunded schools by enhancing resource allocation, cutting expenses linked to asset loss or theft, and bolstering accountability through asset tracking. Additionally, the solution can issue alerts to ensure regular maintenance is conducted on all assets, averting potential major issues and extending the lifecycle of technology assets.

However, if these resources don’t exist or are not usable - there is a bigger problem at hand.

The digital divide has reached such alarming proportions that it directly impacts asset management in K-12 schools, increasing the scarcity of resources or providing no resources for those on the disadvantaged end. This exacerbates the gap between those with access to cutting-edge technology and information and those without.
Imagine a classroom where some students eagerly engage with interactive learning platforms on sleek laptops, while others sit idly, lacking access to the very tools shaping modern education. Whether this is because the technology either doesn’t exist or is not properly maintained – it is an education dilemma. This digital divide not only widens academic disparities but also creates challenges in effectively managing educational assets.

Let's delve into this issue, examining the ramifications and the impact this might have towards a more equitable future for K-12 education.

The Scope of the Digital Divide:

According to a study by the National Center for Education, approximately 9 million children in the U.S. lack access to a reliable internet connection at home, hindering their ability to participate in effective learning. The lack of access to devices such as laptops and tablets exacerbates this issue, with nearly 12 million students lacking adequate technology for any type of remote learning.

Impact on Asset Management in K-12 Education:

The digital divide has significant implications for asset management in K-12 education, affecting how schools procure, distribute, and maintain technology resources. Schools in affluent areas often boast state-of-the-art technology infrastructure, while those in disadvantaged communities struggle to provide basic resources.

Some schools facing budget constraints find it difficult to invest in the latest technologies, leading to outdated hardware and software. Limited procurement options due to budgetary restrictions further impact this issue, hindering schools' ability to pr ovide equitable access to quality educational resources.

Even when schools acquire technology assets, disparities in distribution often persist. Students from affluent backgrounds receive personal devices, whereas those from disadvantaged communities may have to share limited resources or rely solely on school-provided devices, which may not be adequate for remote learning needs.

But, asset management extends beyond acquisition and distribution – it also encompasses maintenance and support. Schools with limited resources struggle to maintain and repair technology assets, leading to prolonged downtime and decreased usability. Additionally, the lack of technical support leads to increasing the digital divide, as students in underserved communities face barriers to accessing timely assistance.

How do schools address the disparities? To bridge the digital divide and promote equitable asset management in K-12 education, some of the following strategies should be considered:

Public-Private Partnerships: Collaboration between tech companies, educational institutions, and government entities can facilitate the provision of discounted or subsidized technology resources to underserved communities. Through public-private partnerships, schools can access cutting-edge technology at reduced costs, enhancing asset management efficiency.

Community Engagement and Empowerment: Engaging parents, educators, and community leaders is crucial in addressing the digital divide. By raising awareness about the importance of technology access and advocating for policy changes, communities can mobilize support for initiatives aimed at bridging the gap and promoting equitable asset management in education.

Digital Literacy Programs: Alongside technology access, digital literacy programs are essential for empowering students to utilize technology effectively for learning. Schools should integrate digital literacy into their curriculum, equipping students with the skills needed to navigate the digital landscape confidently.

Flexible Funding Mechanisms: Flexible funding mechanisms, such as grants and subsidies, can enable schools to adapt to evolving technology needs and ensure sustainable asset management practices. By providing financial support tailored to the specific needs of each school, these mechanisms promote equitable access to technology resources.

The digital divide remains a major challenge in K-12 education. As leaders in the tech industry, we have a responsibility to advocate for solutions that address these disparities and empower all students to thrive in the digital age and we should be working towards a future where every student has equal opportunities to access and leverage technology for learning and growth.

About the author

Syed Ali.jpg

Syed Ali is the founder and CEO at EZO and has over 25 years of experience in the tech sector. Ali specialized in the field of Computer Science and is an alumni of LUMS and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Under his leadership, EZO has evolved to offer a suite of four innovative products that streamline critical asset management processes, increase accessibility, reduce costs, and boost productivity for organizations.