The government announced yesterday the expansion of its home access scheme after a year long trial in Oldham and Suffolk was deemed a success.
However the cost of the project, £300 million according to government figures, doesn't appear to be good value for money, especially as the country's debt is running into hundreds of billions of pounds.
According to British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, around 270,000 families will be have access to the scheme, which roughly translate into a cost of £1111.11 per family; this provides with one year free broadband and a laptop.
Now we're not sure about how the government officials got this figure but it seems that the chosen package is a fairly expensive one. A netbook like the popular (and very decent) Acer Aspire D250 (link) can be purchased for as little as £200 including VAT and delivery.
Wireless broadband can be had for as little as £74 per year (from T-Mobile), albeit one with only 2GB monthly download quota. And we're not even exploring possible wholesale discounts that retailers might give for an order of more than a quarter million machines and lines.
In total, we estimate that the cost of buying a laptop and having broadband for a year should not cost more than £275 with VAT and delivery. That's 75 percent less than the government's budget or a quarter of the cost. Putting it another way, rather than helping 270,000, the government could, by adopting the above measures, expand its project to more than one million families in the UK.
In addition, the government could possibly have encouraged the recycling of older laptops by running a "laptop scrapping" scheme which would have encouraged people to buy new gear, thereby helping the economy at large and creating significantly more jobs.