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M$ to spend $100m giving poor kids PCs

Donation amounts to one PC per 134 kids in the first year

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Microsoft is going to give $100 million to deprived kids across the US to improve their access to technology, the company said today. The idea is to help close the gap between the digital have and the have-nots.

It sounds a laudable scheme. M$ will donate the money under a programme called Club Tech to the Boys and Girls Clubs organisation, whose local affiliates will presumably spend the money buying PCs, software and peripherals to help familiarise their junior members with information technology.

M$' spin doctors claim that the Club Tech scheme will help over 3.3 million kids. That's an impressive statistic, like the size of the donation.

Or is it? $100 million works out at just over $30 per child. And that's over five years. Microsoft will hand out $12.3 million first, with the remaining $88 million to follow over a five-year period.

So, in the first year, that works out that each kid is effectively getting a donation of around $3.73. Clearly, they're not getting a donation each - it will go to their local Club. So if a Boys and Girls Club wants to buy just one $500 PC in year one, they'll need to have at least 134 members. With so large a number of kids per PC, we wonder how much time any of them will actually get to use the thing.

Some of the M$' money will also go on teacher training, both IT skills and programme management. So the number of kids per PC is actually higher than we've calculated. Of course, further years donations will allow more machines to be bought, but you're still looking at each computer being shared by rather a lot of children.

Anything that helps underprivileged kids gain access to technology is to be welcomed, and even if the Club Tech scheme helps just a handful of kids at each Boys and Girls Club a few rungs up the skills ladder, then that's all to the good.

But couldn't Microsoft - in conjunction, perhaps, with other billion dollar plus revenue generating IT companies - have donated enough cash to help all of those millions of kids? ®

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