Plan to help children bridge digital divide

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 December, 2007, 12:00am

Children from poor families have been promised help to access computers as the government moves to develop Hong Kong as a world-class digital city.

The initiative follows survey findings that only 38.4 per cent of families earning below HK$10,000 a month have a computer at home, while 89.2 per cent of families earning between HK$20,000 and HK$29,000 a month possess a computer at home.

Information technology officials yesterday admitted the so-called 'digital divide' was a challenge and that the lack of access to computers could impair children's education and personal development.

But the Digital 21 Strategy, updated yesterday, says the 'digital divide' is not simply about cost.

'Some individuals may not have the skills to use computers, even though they may actually want to get online,' the report says. 'We will set up a taskforce comprising representatives from relevant government departments as well as industry and community stakeholders to formulate strategies and initiatives for digital inclusion.'

The 84-page report says the government will work with welfare groups to set up cyber centres to help poor people get online.

Other government initiatives include promoting e-trade, e-government and technology innovation.

Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organisation, said expensive software and high internet fees had also prevented many families from getting online.

'Even if the family is given a free computer, they still have to pay monthly fees to internet service providers for an online connection, not to mention the cost of software,' Mr Ho said.

Government chief information officer Howard Dickson agreed and said the government was planning to liaise with the industry to provide more affordable software.