Over the last few days the government have released plans for two new plans which they hope will spread knowledge and computer aptitude to those who are disadvantaged in an economic way, or want to learn how to use computers.
Although this has nothing to do with CES 2010, I imagine the timing isn’t 100% coincidental as for a change technology – mostly the Nexus phone – is up there with snow at the top of news headlines which is nice for people like me, but not for those who don’t understand anything or who can’t afford any of the fancy gadgets being shown off.
That’s where the Government comes in, and we’ll start with the ‘Online Basics Scheme’ which essentially offers free short courses which cover five ‘modules’ and was unveiled today by Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, and whilst I have no idea why this has anything to do with Business, it does look like quite a good idea.
The courses are all online at www.onlinebasics.co.uk which means that (assuming you have a computer and internet access) you can do them at home whenever you like after you’ve registered, and if you don’t have a computer (or in fact internet access) then you can go to one of the online centres that have been set up London, Barnsley, Oldham, Gloucester and Devon. It is somewhat ironic that despite being especially called ‘UK Online Centres’ and the fact that it’s the people in remote areas that are least likely to be internet-literate there are no centres in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland!
“Everyone should be a confident user of the internet if they are to participate fully in today’s digital society. Being online brings a range of personal benefits, including financial savings, educational attainment, improved salary prospects and independent living for older people,” Lord Mandelson said.
There is of course a fairly major flaw – although the government aim to get nearly a tenth of the estimated 11 million computer-illiterate people in the country online in the next 3 years there is a very small market. This is essentially open to people who either live near the centres or who have family with computers – because surely people who are capable of getting to the website themselves will already have at least basic PC skills, and other people will just not be able to!
So maybe the possible success for that will only be determined by time, but the second scheme released by the government has already been proven to work not only in pilots over here, but in widescale plans by our Scandinavian friends.
The plan is that any disadvantaged families (i.e. those earning less than £15,500 a year or on income support) will be provided with a free laptop and broadband access for a year and although they will have to fund the internet themselves after that it will mean that they will be able to reap the benefits of the internet and a computer without the financial burden.
Obviously this has some major advantages – as Gordon Brown said “It will mean all families can come together, learn together and reap rewards together.” – And as ideological as this may be he does have a point! However surely it won’t be long before letters are filling up the Daily Mail pointing out how ‘Easy people on the dole have it’, ‘that we shouldn’t be spending this much money in a recession’ (£300 million for those interested) and maybe using it as another reason for why so many immigrants want to come here…
But that’s not really the point. These schemes are, if nothing else, showing that the government is finally taking computer literacy seriously, and actively promoting the education of people who have slipped through the net due to finance, age or location. And surely that’s for the good?
Via – PC Advisor