A scheme which has given free computers to 16,905 low-income families will end in June.

The Computers in Homes scheme, run by the 20/20 Trust, has received $3 million a year from the Ministry of Education and has been giving recycled laptops and desktop computers to about 1700 low-income families a year.

Trust executive director Stephen Carr said the scheme would end in June but the trust was negotiating with the ministry and other stakeholders for a new, wider scheme to replace it.

"We have worked with 16,905 families over 16 years," he said.


"But when we think about how many families are disconnected [from the internet], it's going to take us 187 years to reach them.

"So I'm looking to do something that is scalable and involves far more collaborators."

He said 61,000 families with school-aged children did not have internet access at the time of the March 2013 Census.

"That's 150,000 to 180,000 school-aged children. That may have reduced to 100,000 children now, but what's important is to understand what connecting with the internet means and what a device means."

He said technology had changed hugely since the Computers in Homes started 16 years ago.

Most families, even on low incomes, now had smartphones with internet access. But that was not enough.

"It's not sufficient to have a bit of mobile data on a smartphone. That is not going to support a child's education when they are not in school," he said.

He said the trust was talking to hardware and software providers, internet service providers, banks and schools as well as the Ministry of Education and other government departments about what should replace Computers in Homes.

However he declined to promise agreement on a new scheme before funding for the current scheme ends, because he did not want to prejudge the outcome of negotiations.