Providing poor families with access to computers and the internet can sometimes produce new problems, according to organisers of a government-funded learning programme.
A student whose family obtained a computer under the 'I Learn at home' programme found that rather than being able to use it for homework, his father took it over and became hooked on computer games.
'In the case we handled, a dad was using the computer day and night. The student could only do his homework after the dad finished playing computer games,' said Thomas Leung Wing-fai, representing one of the programme's two implementers, Net-Com rock n' roll.
The programme, which started in July, seeks to help poor families buy computers and secure internet access. But solving problems that arise after the computers are installed is the real challenge, according to the implementers.
Tony Lee, of the other implementer WebOrganic, said the group had set up a counselling hotline and received 400 inquiries. Most were about parents taking over the computers and children getting addicted to internet use. The group had yet to come across any severe family disputes over computer use, but Lee said that if it did, it would refer them to professional counsellors.
According to targets set by the government, the two groups were supposed to serve some 20,000 families in the first year of the five-year programme, said Joey Lam Kam-ping, deputy government chief information officer.
There are still four months to go, and the two groups have served about 9,010 families. This represents a small fraction of the 240,000 families qualified to join the programme.
Social Welfare Department staff will promote the programme during annual follow-ups with households receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance.