LCQ2: Internet Learning Support Programme
Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau and a reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the Legislative Council meeting today (November 9):
The "i Learn at home" Internet Learning Support Programme was launched by the authorities in July this year to help low-income families acquire affordable Internet access services and suitable computer equipment for their school-age children to undertake web-based learning at home, and to provide them with support and advice. The authorities have commissioned two organisations to implement the programme in the Eastern and Western parts of Hong Kong respectively. In this connection, will the executive authorities inform this Council:
(a) of the respective numbers of families and students registered with the two implementers so far and the costs incurred;
(b) whether the two implementers have arranged for staff members to provide support and advice to participants at home; how the authorities safeguard the privacy of participants and ensure that no one can obtain personal data of members of the public through such arrangement for other uses; and
(c) of the problems encountered in implementing the programme and the solutions adopted?
The Financial Secretary announced in his 2010-11 Budget a two-pronged strategy to assist students from low-income families to undertake web-based learning at home. This includes the provision of an annual Internet Access Subsidy to eligible families and the implementation of a five-year Internet Learning Support Programme (ILSP) to help them acquire affordable computers and Internet access service, and to provide them with training as well as user and social support.
The ILSP was launched under the programme name of "i Learn at home" on July 14, 2011. The eInclusion Foundation Limited (eInclusion) and the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) are implementing the programme in the Eastern and Western parts of Hong Kong respectively.
My reply to the Honourable Emily Lau's three-part question is as follows: (a) As at October 31, 2011, more than 23 000 families have applied to join the programme. The applications are being processed by the two Implementers. So far, 7 147 families have completed registration, of which HKCSS accounts for 2 386 families involving 6 007 students while eInclusion accounts for 4 761 families involving 5 497 students. More than 2 100 computers and 880 Internet access packages have been sold through the programme.
The Finance Committee has approved $220 million to implement the ILSP. The two Implementers will each be allocated $100 million over a five-year period from 2011-12 to 2015-16 to implement the programme in their service zones. The remaining $20 million is set aside as central reserve to meet common and special requirements. We will allocate the funds to the Implementers in phases according to their business plans and financial requirements. We have reserved $40 million for each Implementer in the current financial year to meet their initial start-up and operating expenses.
(b) The Funding and Operation Agreements entered between the Government and the two Implementers provide that the Implementers shall comply with the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance. The personal data obtained during programme implementation can only be used for purposes directly related to the ILSP and with consent from the persons concerned. The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer will closely monitor the performance of the Implementers to ensure effective implementation of the programme and protection of the personal data collected.
Services under the programme such as training, technical and user support and counselling are provided to participants through the service centres established by the Implementers across the territory. It is not necessary to arrange services at participants' homes in most circumstances. If it is so requested by the participants, the two Implementers would consider arranging home-based support and counselling services for them having regard to actual needs. The two Implementers have neither received any such requests nor made any such arrangements since the commencement of the programme.
(c) The operation of the programme has been smooth. Given that ILSP is an innovative service concept, eligible families have yet to fully understand its objectives and benefits, and some even have confused it with the Internet Access Subsidy. Hence, response to the programme was lukewarm initially. After vigorous promotion of the programme in collaboration with the Education Bureau and the Student Financial Assistance Agency (SFAA), distribution of programme leaflets and enrolment forms to eligible families by mail through SFAA and briefings to schools through the two Implementers at the commencement of the new school year, responses from the target beneficiaries have picked up from August onwards. In early September, there was a surge of applications within a short period of time and the two Implementers could not contact all applicants for registration promptly. After increasing the number of staff, the two Implementers have notified all applicants on how to complete the registration.
Moreover, after comparing the offers and services of the two Implementers, some participants considered some offers provided by another implementer as being more attractive. Since the mode of operation, partners and district network of the two Implementers are different, it is inevitable that their offers and services are not exactly the same. We will continue to forge better co-ordination and encourage mutual sharing of resources and experiences between the two Implementers, with a view to providing better services, more choices as well as more attractive offers and services for the participating families.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011