HP joins Latin America trend to sell laptops to retirees -

If you read some North American financial pundits, Latin America is full of evil leftist tyrants. But down in Argentina, HP and the country's pensioners might disagree, as some of them are buying PCs thanks to a government PC loans programme.

While those in the developed world have access to pensions in a stronger currency and cheaper local prices for technology, retirees and pensioners in South America usually don't have either.

That's why the government down in Argentina and its public pensions system has enacted a loans programme through one of the government-owned banks to finance computer purchases by pensioners, with a low interest rate and long payment plans.

Of course there is still an age-related digital divide, but those that do know about computers are already taking advantage of it.

Take this scribbler's old man as an example: an IT veteran who started back in the days of punched cards, he has just replaced his 2004 Sony VAIO with a snappy new dual core laptop sporting two gigs of RAM, which he bought with one of these government loans.

The programme, as implemented through the public bank allows pensioners to choose among three computer brands: Exo - a local manufacturer, Olivetti and HP. Of the three, HP seems to be offering the widest range of options, with multiple AMD and Intel powered laptops, and also all-in-one desktops.

These loans cover computers up to 1280 quid, in 40 monthly instalments and with free delivery nationwide. The monthly payments are automagically deducted from the pensioner's monthly pay cheque. To put this scheme in perspective, the private sector only offers up to two-year financing -24 monthly payments - in very rare instances, with one-year financing being the most common.

So overall it's a big deal to make the grey haired surfers happy. What seems to be lacking, though, is some ways to train the untrained in these "new" technologies.

In the case of this scribbler's old man, he chose a Compaq C778LA, a model which HP originally introduced in mid-2009 and which HP has since updated with a 300GB hard drive. It sports two gigs of RAM, Intel X1300 integrated graphics, and Vista as its OS - quickly replaced with Win 7, also known as "Vista 7".

 

In Blighty

 Different countries have different approaches to help their often cash-strapped generation. Britain adds IT education, for instance.

Libraries across the UK have been offering basic computer courses and there's been training efforts like the Bee's "First Click" programme. Other private volunteer efforts also target pensioners and help get them computer-savvy. According to reports, keeping in touch with relatives abroad and "keeping up with the grandchildren" are two of the main motivators for retirees to get to grips with 'puters.

Another government programme in England is the sponsoring of "Online Centres" which target "those with low or zero IT skills" and provide everyone a chance to use computers and access the Internet. According to the programme description, there's more than six thousand "online centres" across England housed in community centres, churches, schools and libraries with experienced staff available to give as much help as each person needs.

 

In Oz

Down under, the government in Western Australia offers retirees - actually anyone over the age of 60 - the "Seniors Card" which provides not only utilities discounts and cheaper transport benefits but also lower prices when purchasing a computer. 

Another solution is provided by WorkVentures Connect IT, an Aussie not-for-profit which offers "quality refurbished PCs" at cheap prices to any senior who receives payment from Centrelink (pension or health care card).

 

Conclusion

Leaving aside what the Beeb described ten years ago as the one in five pensioners who "do not see what they could use computers for", it's nice to see governments across the world taking into account the needs of the grey-haired web surfers. A mix of generous financing terms for wider access to computers - like Argentina's programme that uses the funds on the State pension system that previously went to the private stock markets casino, often invested outside the country - plus easy access to training like England's programmes surely seems to be the way to go. And surely it beats wasting tax payer wonga to reward the fat cats at the likes of Goldman Sachs with bailouts.