Poor pupils to be offered cheap iPads
The iPad is to be included in a government welfare scheme that helps needy pupils obtain a computing device to improve their web learning, in an attempt to promote the unpopular initiative.
In what could be a good deal for Apple fans, primary and secondary school pupils will pay about HK$2,000 a year, for three years, to secure an iPad and a home internet connection, said Erwin Huang, chief executive of WebOrganic.
The non-profit body is one of two appointed by the government to offer cheap computer-plus-internet packages to underprivileged families.
Huang said he believed the trendy Apple media tablet would be appealing to pupils. 'We are delivering iPads to the poor,' he said of his partnership with Apple.
The device's addition to the hardware choices on offer comes after the project was found to have fallen far short of its initial target since it was launched in July.
The Internet Learning Support Programme is meant to help low-income households acquire computers and connect to the web at home, as part of a move to boost internet penetration. WebOrganic and eInclusion were tasked with securing cheap deals with internet service providers and hardware vendors.
As of last month, only a few thousand pupils have been served, despite the original intention to help some 410,000 children from 300,000 families. The two charities combined have sold only 1,671 internet packages and 4,350 computers.
WebOrganic and eInclusion both plan to expand the line of hardware offers. Huang said he was working on an affordable package for the iPad 2.
He also mentioned the possibility of tie-ups with publishers of educational materials under the scheme.
The government is conducting pilot studies on how electronic devices can be used in classrooms to supplement print materials.
Sources said Undersecretary for Education Kenneth Chen Wei-on, who is looking at ways to modernise schools, had recently said tablets held 'great potential'.
Kenny Chien, a member of eInclusion's executive committee, said his group was also looking to expand the use of media tablets. 'Some schools have advised us to explore this avenue,' he said.
The cost, in HK dollars, of the government's Internet Learning Support Programme