South Carolina plans 8 Apple computer labs to fill in broadband deserts

If families suddenly forced into home-schooling during the pandemic has highlighted anything, it's that all things are not created equal when it comes to technology and internet access across the US. Projects like the US government's rural broadband rollout are trying to fill in the gaps, but now individual states and universities are weighing in, with South Carolina the latest to establish strategically-located computer labs.

Announced today, the project is being led by the University of South Carolina, with $6 million in Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funding from the state. It'll be used to set up eight Apple computer labs across South Carolina, in partnership with Benedict College.

Each of the eight will be located so that they'll be accessible by local school districts, along with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and the South Carolina Technical College System. They'll also be open to the public, at no cost. A series of educational labs will also be held at each, following Apple's coding curriculum.

"At Apple, we believe education is the great equalizer, and that access to technology is key to learning and workforce opportunities today," Susan Prescott, Apple's Vice President of Worldwide Developer Relations and Enterprise & Education Marketing, said today. "We are proud that Apple products and curriculum have been selected by the University of South Carolina and Benedict College for their new education labs. Together, we aim to ensure all South Carolinians have the opportunity to learn, code, create, and grow in new ways."

Apple's curriculum is already in use by more than 9,000 K12 and higher education institutions around the world. Although it includes tutorials and more on how to develop apps specifically for iOS and iPadOS, which can eventually be released in the App Store, it's also designed for more general novice coders looking to get started with the core tools.

The labs themselves will be based in existing facilities. There'll be hubs at Columbia's BullStreet District and at Benedict College, the University of South Carolina says, along with satellite labs at six of its Palmetto College and regional campuses. Each will be equipped with a mixture of Macs, iPads with Apple Pencils, and Apple software.

South Carolina received just over $48 million GEER funding, part of one-time grants given to help support states during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, State Gov. Henry McMaster said that almost $20 million of that fund would go to education and workforce training, with a particular focus on areas like IT, healthcare, and Criminal Justice & Corrections. States have until May 11 to award their funding.