I can certainly understand what they are trying to achieve but I am interested in what criteria is set to distinguish who is entitled to a computer and who isn't. A family with a 5 year PC that spent £1,000 is going to be worse off then a family that has has never bought a PC before.
We have just issued 24 Samsung Q1's as part of the last CfP (Computers for Pupils) initiative but it is a difficult one to measure if through the use of a learning device those students grades will have improved to that if they were not giving a device.
I am more interested in running parental sessions as part of this role out, to allow parents to further their IT skills but to also be in a position to help their son / daughter through the use of IT. They need to be able to grasp a better understanding of IT, and its not all doom and gloom that the internet is often portrayed to be.
This is indeed an ill-conceived, if well intentioned, scheme.
The only way that this could work IMHO would be to give an identical computer and broadband package to every child - no conditions!
Of course, given the money, the identical computer part is easy but how do you give identical broadband? Not everyone is served by cable, not everyone gets a decent DSL speed, not everyone will get a 3G data signal...!
To close the digital divide, an initiative would be necessary where by every pupil was given an 'access device' and the government was to install a suitable infrastructure to support these devices (e.g. provide ubiquitous 3G/HSDPA or WiMax access everywhere that there is a home with a child). Clearly all this is far too costly.
That was attempted all be it on a much smaller scale in NZ over 5 years ago. A charity called computers in homes was set up that allowd low income families in certain areas with school support to apply for a computer with internet access. The whole thing was a farce though as the computers came with no support contract because "the schools could easily provide support using their existing skill base" .
The program did not go stunningly as unsuprisingly the unskilled home users that were given the net quickly filled their machines with viruses, downloaded games and content of a biologically informative nature. There was no means implemented or conveyed to the families about how faults would or could be resolved so most were simply returned to the school either after several repairs or long periods of silence. The reasoning given by the families that the systems were unrelyable and slow which is unsuprising given that the OS of the day was Windows 98 SE with limited virus protection.
This kind of thing is almost always handled wrongly by people who treat it as a one off purchase type deal when really it is much more of an infrastructure project like creating a new network of pipes to transport flavored water to every home in the country. Things like matinence, support, training and facilities to cope with all of the extra overhead need to be established rather than simply expecting 'some computer guy/girl' to come to the rescue without any compensation.