£98–The price to break the digital divide in the UK

News Articles

BBC News – £98 PCs target UK digital divide

Race Online 2012 to bring sub-£100 PC’s to market | ThnikBroadband.com (UK)

Web site

http://raceonline2012.org

My comments

Some parts of Britain are now providing disadvantaged people with access to subsidised computer equipment for GBP98 and are providing wireless-broadhand Internet access facilitated by Three Broadband, at GBP9 per month or GBP18 for three months; as part of a 12-month “IT-enablement” trial.

The idea behind this subsidised IT program, which is run by the “Race Online 2012” action group, is to allow access to online skills for study and work. In some cases, the study may be online only such as through distance-learning options like Open University or may require a significant amount of time spent online for the course.

One benefit will be that the program will be working with computer-education facilities around the UK and also provide telephone-based support for the users. This, in my opinion, would also need to respect the needs of people who most likely wouldn’t be computer-literate.

Usually, this class of user will end up with, at best, a “hand-me-down” computer which is very slow at best. They may not get any sort of Internet or may be lucky to get an ADSL broadband service for their Internet connection.

As far as I know, the computers will typically be refurbished units, most likely desktops. But I often wonder what condition they will be refurbished to especially that an ATX-standard “mini-tower” desktop system could be renewed with modest but new hardware at a cost-effective price. The systems will typically come with a flatscreen monitor, keyboard and mouse and come with Linux and other open-source software. The previously-mentioned Internet connection will be provided with a USB-connected wireless-broadhand modem. This solution may cater for the “prepaid-mobile-only” households that wouldn’t be deemed acceptable to run a landline phone service with ADSL Internet due to poor credit standings.

Remploy, who are a supported-workshop program for assisting young people with employment skills and who are behind this program, have a goal to sell 8000 machines in 12 months

Issues that may be raised

Security

It may be so easy to think that Linux may be hard to hack, being a UNIX-derived operating system and not-so-popular, but there would have to be someone like AVG working on a free “household-grade” desktop security package, This is because hackers can turn their attention to any operating system even though it may not be popularly deployed and, as I know in the days when MS-DOS started to become the popular operating environment, other desktop operating environments were still as vulnerable and I always hold that belief.

3G wireless broadband the answer for Internet service?

Some of us may find that the 3G wireless-broadband technology may not be enough for Internet service to this community as the only broadband technology. This is because some neighbourhoods may provide very low or non-existent coverage, especially if the device is a 3G “stick” modem.

There have been other ways of providing cost-effective “always-on” broadband Internet. For example, I reported previously (older article, article after SFR takeover) in 2008 on this site about some public-housing developments in Paris, France have been set up with “Triple-Play Social” with 512kbps Internet, regular broadcast TV and inbound telephone use for 1 euro per month courtesy of SFR / Neuf Cegetel. This bandwidth could provide enough bandwidth for most Internet activities.  Some of these activities could be observed especially as there is an increased rollout of next-generation broadband Internet service in most countries.

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