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Students To Receive Free Laptops And Broadband in GBP300m scheme

Students from low-income families could benefit from a £300m programme pioneered by the Government which aims at giving away free laptops, software application and free internet access for a year.

Two pilot schemes - which will initially cost £30m - will take place in Oldham and Suffolk, lasting till February 2010 and will be put in place by the local councils.

The Greater Manchester Area will be the first one to benefit from the project as 8,000 laptops will be given out to a fifth of primary and secondary pupils in an effort to improve computer literacy.

The means-tested scheme requires families to earn less than £15,500 or be on benefits such as Income Support or Job Seekers' Allowance in order to quality for the grants which the parents will have to apply for.

Once deployed, up to 150,000 families - at a cost of £2000 per head - could benefit from the packages and help the government bridge the so-called "Digital Divide"; nearly 35 percent of all UK pupils do not have access to the internet at Home.

The Schools Minister, Jim Knight, is also lobbying computer firms to offer cheap deals to pupils in the areas enrolled in the programme.

PC Makers will also be invited to send their proposed packages which will then get a "NextGenerationLearning@Home" logo which should, according to education body Becta, help families and students choose their products.

So in effect, how expensive is broadband and a free laptop; Carphone Warehouse is selling the Webbook laptop with 1GB download limit for £19 per month, that's £228 for one year or 62p per day.

Should you switch your phone line to Talktalk and choose a bog standard second hand desktop, you could be looking at costs nearer to 50p a day.

Désiré Athow
Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.