It’s just over a month now, since the BBC television programme, Panorama examined the safety record of Wi-Fi in schools.
It’s fair to say that the programme which exaggerated the dangers of wireless networks was pulled apart for its bad science – but not before it inspired a host of similar scare stories in the British media.
In fact, the media scare over Wi-Fi in schools was an example of British culture at its worst. It showed how deeply scientific ignorance is ingrained in the general public; it showed how quickly the media could pick up on a small issue and blow it out of all proportion and it showed how little the British public understands a sense of risk.
It was therefore good to see 3Com and reseller 802UK (which specialises in the education market) hit back against the fog of confusion and scaremongering with its recent launch. There’s still some way to go: the campaign against the MMR jab continued to run some years after several studies had shown that the triple jab posed no danger, so it’s likely that there will continue to be undercurrents of scepticism – if not, outright hostility.
By tying up with an educational specialist such 802UK, 3Com is trying to convince schools and colleges of the very real benefits of Wi-Fi, while trying to assuage fears.
No-one is saying that Wi-Fi networks are categorically safe for all users at all times, for ever. Research will continue to be carried out.
But Wi-Fi technology has a clean bill of health from several health organisations, including WHO and the UK government’s own HPA. It’s right and proper that the situation continues to be monitored but we certainly need vendors to fight back with reasoned arguments. Let's hope a few more join 3Com in this drive.
Unfortunately, the general public will continue to have a nodding acquaintance with risk. This after all is a country where flights are cancelled because of fears of terrorism. A country where parents drive children to school for fear of paedophiles, ignoring the level of traffic accidents. A country where parents will send children out in the sun with scant protection from the rays, yet fear the negligible risk of Wi-Fi – there’s quite some education process to go through.