Tuesday 30 September 2014

Low-income get help to get online

Tablets, high-speed Internet links for 8,000 households for $6 per month
By Irene Tham, The Straits Times, 29 Sep 2014

FOR $6 a month, some low-income households will soon get a tablet computer as well as a high-speed broadband connection, under a move to help poor families go online.

Thanks to a new aid scheme that channels telco fines to the poor, some 8,000 households will benefit from the programme, called Home Access. It draws on a new $10 million Digital Inclusion Fund made up of telco fines, first announced in April.

The fund will help the 8,000 households here with no school-going children and a gross monthly income not exceeding $1,900 to join the information highway over the next four years.

There is no scheme that addresses the technology needs of this group at present.

"This way, our users can make digital videos or calls with their loved ones, surf the Web, and enjoy the many other benefits of IT advancements," said Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim during Silver Infocomm Day yesterday at ITE College East.

"As the use of ICT (infocomm technology) becomes ever more pervasive, there is a need to raise the level of adoption of infocomm, especially among the low-income households," he said.

About 5,000 of these households are already receiving financial assistance from the state. They will automatically qualify for the subsidised home broadband plans and tablets. Invitation letters for applications will be sent out from November.

The remaining 3,000 households can apply directly through self-help groups such as the Chinese Development Assistance Council, the Singapore Indian Development Association and Yayasan Mendaki from next April.

An existing initiative that makes broadband connectivity and computers more affordable for needy students will also receive a substantial boost.

From November, those who qualify to get computers at a discount of up to 75 per cent will also get broadband links of 100Mbps free for three years.

This is a major speed boost under the Infocomm Development Authority's NEU PC Plus programme.

Now, needy students pay $1.50 monthly over 36 months for a fixed or mobile broadband plan with a speed of only 1Mbps.

More low-income households will also benefit. From November, households with a gross monthly income not exceeding $3,000 will qualify, up from $2,700. The raised income ceiling is expected to benefit some 6,000 families.

Cleaner Sim Ai Song, 55, said he hopes to apply for the benefits, which will be useful for his son and daughter, aged eight and 10 years old respectively.

"My kids need Internet access to do their homework, but I've been telling them to work in school," he said.

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