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Government wants laptops below 150 euros in e-school 2.0

(Updated) In the next 30 days, the Government will define the specific lines of the e-escola 2.0 program, today approved in a resolution of the Council of Ministers. But it is certain that students with lower income no longer have special conditions when purchasing equipment and accessing the Internet.

With this new version of the e-escola program, the Government wants to have zero cost, avoiding what happened in the first generation of the program, where the numbers initially defined for the distribution of computers were exceeded, forcing the State to support 20 to 25 percent of the value total.

“This program will be fully supported by operators and beneficiaries”, guaranteed Paulo Campos, Secretary of State for Communications.

In a press conference, Paulo Campos explained that the Program’s total accounts are not yet closed, but that the latest report by the Fundação das Comunicações – referring to 2009 – determined a total cost for the State of 255 million euros. Of these 139 million were related to the e-school, 50 million to the e-initiatives, 4.5 million to the e-teacher and 63 million to the e-school.

With the simplification of the program, there will no longer be different access routes for the various members of the school community, but also different prices for the purchase of equipment and also for Internet connection.

It should be recalled that in the first version of the Program, launched in July 2007, there were different conditions for secondary school students, e-initiatives graduates and teachers. The difference was made in terms of time of access to broadband Internet at reduced prices, but also depending on the income of families, with three different levels, and in the first step students did not pay any initial amount for the computer, as if you can see through the accounts below, explained by TeK.

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Although the conditions of the new program are still being defined with the agents involved in the program, Paulo Campos said that the objective is to obtain computers at prices below 150 euros, the maximum amount initially paid by students without social support at e-school. For the connection to the Internet, the Secretary of State did not advance values, but guaranteed that this is also a priority, covering not only the mobile Internet but also the New Generation Networks.

“The offer will be generic. All beneficiaries will be on equal terms but we will work to make the offer comprehensive. […] Our ambition is that the cost of 150 euros is reduced “, underlined Paulo Campos.

In this new phase of the e-school program, only students and teachers who have not yet had access to portable computers can apply. That is why the Government’s goals are to distribute only 50 thousand pieces of equipment in the first year, one tenth of the amount advanced in the first phase of the program and which would end up being largely exceeded, settling in the 1.7 million laptops delivered to students, more over 1 million with broadband Internet.

“The main objectives of combating info-exclusion are already achieved […] The vast majority of the school community has already had access to the program “, says the Secretary of State. The idea is reinforced by João Mata, Secretary of State for Education, who points out that the numbers are overwhelming, and that 1.7 million beneficiaries of the program E-school corresponds to close to a fifth of the Portuguese population.

As a balance of the initiative, João Mata stated that the e-school is an emblematic program of the Government’s commitment to ICT and the Technological Plan for Education, which allowed Portugal to be placed among the most advanced countries in the modernization of education.

Access to educational content and the continued connection to the Internet at lower prices – via mobile broadband or through RNGs – are the strengths of the Program for those who already have an e-school laptop. The agreements for the production of these contents are being finalized and involve the main producers in the sector, guaranteed Paulo Campos.

The Resolution approved today in the Council of Ministers sets the tone for the implementation of this initiative, which will be implemented in the next 30 days in terms of legislative and administrative instruments. The Government also intends to extend the program to other economic agents that show interest in integrating it, but Paulo Campos declined to specify who the companies that may be part of e-escola 2.0 may be.

Fatima Hunter

Editorial Note: The news was updated with information collected in the meantime at the press conference.