Scotland has the lowest level of broadband uptake in the UK with use lowest among older people, those with health difficulties, and those on low incomes . To reach this audience and allow them access to key services available on the internet two main problems have to be addressed: cost and ease of use. Existing PC solutions are too expensive and their user interface too complex.
Hunter Associates saw an opportunity to bring this audience on-line by developing a low cost, simple to use, device that would enable web browser capability on the household television set. The product concept was named the McQuaker after elderly neighbours without internet access.
A demonstration unit was required to interest investors and organisations that could benefit by bringing this audience online. The demonstration McQuaker would be presented to these types of organisation for example – social services, Glasgow Council, Tesco/Sainsbury’s/et al, educational services – to quantify the benefits that could be provided and any further development required.
 Scotland’s Digital Future: A Strategy for Scotland Digital Participation.
Hunter Associates were put in touch with ISLI who quickly determined eligibility for DoRIES support. Initially a phase 1 DoRIES engagement was used to scope and cost two different approaches for implementing web browser functionality onto a typical family TV set. ISLI identified and highlighted the most flexible approach to implement a working prototype.
Following successful completion of Stage 1 and working closely with Dr John Hunter, ISLI’s Technology Group applied for Stage 2 DoRIES funding to develop a working prototype. Once this was approved a prototype unit was developed which illustrated the key features. This included a cost exercise which established that the deliverable target price below £100 per unit was achievable.
Dr Hunter now has a prototype McQuaker that can be demonstrated in two forms: as a pre-configured off the shelf PC and as a “livecd” for demonstration on a variety of target hardware . These can be used as demonstrators for organisations who are interested in social inclusion and businesses that could use this platform to provide access to services. The next steps are to leave demonstration McQuakers with these organisations to aid their assessment and following that to seek their support to carry out a meaningful trial, before launching the service to their target households.