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Q&A: The £92 computer and the UK IT workforce

IT PRO speaks to Race Online 2012 partner Remploy about its low-cost computing offerings designed to ensure excluded members of society are included in our digital nation.

Remploy has just unveiled its low-cost refurbished computer line-up, offering people with disabilities, those on low incomes, older generations and others excluded from society the chance to get online and develop IT skills as well as boost their confidence.

PCs featuring a flat screen monitor, mouse and keyboard and running Windows or Ubuntu and Office are available from 92 from Remploy's ecycle website.

The launch of the low-cost kit prices start at 92 depending on your chosen configuration - falls under Martha Lane Fox's umbrella Race Online 2012 initiative, of which Remploy is a local digital champion.

"I am excited about the possibilities this low-cost PC presents for the many people in the UK who so far have simply not been able to afford to get online," said Lane Fox.

"Remploy's mission is to expand opportunities for disabled and disadvantaged people. The 92 PC now means they are opening doors both online and in the workplace."

IT PRO spoke to Chris Sutton, general sales manager at Remploy which provides specialist employment services for people with disabilities about the announcement and what it means for those it's reaching out to.

Who will benefit from this low-cost equipment?

The excluded. People who haven't got funds or silver surfers who may have the money but want to try a lower cost option first to help their learning. Low income families will also gain as will people on benefits in addition to those at the high end.'

Remploy's mission is to expand opportunities for disabled and disadvantaged people. The 92 PC now means they are opening doors both online and in the workplace.

Remploy is all about providing sustainable jobs for disabled people. Hopefully providing disabled people with low-cost machines means they can learn skills, help find work and be more socially included.

Some of the people we work with might only see one person a week, while collecting incapacity benefit. They're not having much of a life. Hopefully by giving them PCs with internet access, it will assist with job hunting and help ensure they are more socially included.

Has this idea been in the pipeline for long?

We've been discussing it with various partners for the last 12 months. The Race Online initiative has brought all the partners together.

What other partners are involved?

Microsoft provides the software. We're a registered refurbisher so we are able to get Windows 7, XP and Office at low cost. We're also providing an Ubuntu version so consumers have a choice.

There's a Three mobile dongle for people who don't have a telephone. But more fixed line options will be announced in the next few days.

Support is provided by Positive IT Solutions, which also played a role with the computers for the Home Access scheme.

Can we expect this initiative to evolve and offer other products in the future?

I think so. We will be listening to our customer base and what, perhaps, the scheme is lacking or extra nice things they'd like to have.

We've started talking to an organisation called Alex, an OS which sits on top of Ubuntu. It's designed for silver surfers. There will also be accessibility software on there to help people. A number of units are already pre-imaged and we'll start to roll it out to others.

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