The Ministry of Education will pledge NT$120 million (US$3.7 million) to purchase 8,000 computers for first through third graders from lower-income families in an effort to bridge the nation's digital divide, Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) said yesterday in Taipei.
The families will also receive free Internet access for one year under the plan.
"In Taiwan, 67 percent of the population are Internet users and more than 75 percent of the households nationwide have direct Internet access," Tu said, adding that the government must do more to offset the digital imbalance between rural and urban areas.
To promote computer usage in rural communities, the government also vowed to set up 113 digital opportunity centers by the end of this year.
Tu made the remarks at the "Information and Communications Technology for a Better Education" seminar, saying that Taiwan is willing and able to assist other countries in enhancing their digital capability.
More than 45 representatives, including five education ministers and six vice-ministers from 15 countries including the UK, Malawi, the Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia and several South Pacific countries, are attending the two-day seminar.
The participants will hear presentations on Taiwan's digital success stories as well as visit some of the country's science and technology sites, such as the Hsinchu Science Park and the 2007 World Robots Olympiad.
President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), in his welcome address, said that as a member of the global village, Taiwan has the obligation to contribute and be actively engaged in causes that eradicate computer and technology disparity in the world.
Despite its lack of natural resources, Taiwan has managed to remain competitive due to its stellar education system, Chen said, citing the recent World Economic Report which ranked Taiwan as number four in higher education and training compared with 131 countries worldwide.
Chen said the government's dedication to computer education has ensured that every classroom in Taiwan has a computer and every township has a digital opportunity center where local people can become literate in computer skills.
At the APEC Leaders' Meeting in Bangkok in 2003, Taiwan advocated a collective worldwide effort to tackle the emerging digital divide.
In the following year, Taiwan initiated the establishment of the APEC Digital Opportunity Center (ADOC) to help APEC member economies improve their IT networks.
Since then, Taiwan has dispatched long-term volunteers to help set up ADOC's in six countries, the president said.