Charges slashed in net scheme for poor pupils

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 July, 2011, 12:00am


A group that co-hosts the government's internet learning programme for poor children is slashing its price by as much as two-thirds in its latest plan.

The price cut by the eInclusion Foundation follows complaints from teachers as well as questions over the fairness of its plan, which originally worked out to be more expensive than that proposed by fellow host WebOrganic.

The organisation had proposed a three-year low-interest instalment plan for pupils to get their computers and internet service which it later said would cost HK$300 a year for broadband access and computers.

But the group said yesterday that it would charge as little as HK$10.70 a month, depending on the option. This compares with WebOrganic's best deal of HK$250 a year.

Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association of Hong Kong supervisor Wong Kwai-yau, who works with eInclusion on the project, denied any motive behind the big price cut.

Controversy has surrounded the awarding of part of a HK$220 million contract to eInclusion, affiliated with government-linked organisation the Internet Professional Association. Questions have been raised over the fairness of eInclusion gaining a share of the deal despite the fact that its scores were lower than the other co-host in a tender assessment.

WebOrganic chief executive Erwin Huang shrugged off questions about being undercut, saying only that the company was committed to providing hardware and an internet service of the best quality.

Under the programme, WebOrganic is providing a service to the western side of Hong Kong while eInclusion serves the eastern districts. Pupils join the programme covering the district where they live.

Social worker Sze Lai-shan, of the Society for Community Organisation, was stunned by the price cut. 'I will ask our Sham Shui Po residents to move,' she joked. 'It shows that if rich people are willing to do something for society, many things can be done.'

The mother of Chan Yuen-ling, eight, who was the first pupil to join the scheme, said she hoped that her daughter would learn about healthy web browsing. 'The thing I like best about the scheme is that they will teach my daughter how to use the internet. Sometimes I don't know how to teach her,' the Tseung Kwan O parent said.