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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March, 2004, 13:58 GMT
Call for laptops for all pupils
Child working on a laptop
Children could benefit from access to laptops
A leading charity has called on the government to provide laptop computers for every UK schoolchild by 2010.

Citizens Online, which campaigns for equality in the use of information technology, has issued a series of challenges for the government.

Lack of access to computers is identified as one of the main reasons half the population is still offline.

Giving children access to laptops for schoolwork is seen as a key priority by the charity.

Mixed results

"The very process of education is dependent on technology and not having equal access to laptops is like some pupils using pen and paper while others use slate and chalk," said Gail Bradbrook, author of the Digital Equality report from Citizens Online.

The government has experimented with offering free laptop computers with mixed results. In some deprived areas pupils with laptops have become the target of thieves.

Essex education authority has announced its plans to provide a digital learning device to all its pupils by 2007.

But a similar scheme set up in Nottingham failed to attract pupils in the numbers originally hoped.

Ms Bradbrook acknowledged that there were problems with such schemes and suggested that homework clubs within schools could be one of the answers to concerns about safety.

Community involvement

The report also suggested the government subsidise the adaptive technology needed by disabled people to get online.

Members of the tech industry are challenged to play more of a role in their local communities and come up with ways that their products can tackle social issues such as isolation, crime and health.

Citizens Online is a member of a working group set up by Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, to look at how the government can reach those members of society not yet online.

Half of UK homes do not have internet access and a third of all adults have never surfed the web.

The charity's Digital Equality report is a collaboration between a range of organisations committed to tackling the digital divide.

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