Hospital broadband laptops are childs' play

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Hospital broadband laptops are childs' play

Seven of Australia’s largest children's hospitals will get laptops and wireless broadband in a $7.2 million online community for youth living with a serious illness, chronic condition or disability.

The community, called Livewire, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Starlight Foundation.

It was developed with the assistance of a $7.2 million grant under the Federal Government's clever networks program.

Some of the money is going to a bedside access program, Livewire on Wheels, which puts customised tray tables, laptops and wireless connections into hospital wards.

Canberra Hospital is the first to benefit from the program.

A pilot is running at the Sydney Children's Hospital in Randwick, while another Sydney hospital, Westmead Children's, is next on the list, said Cinnamon Pollard, partnerships and marketing director at Livewire.

Hospitals in Newcastle, Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne will also benefit.

"We've designed and manufactured the bedside access table ourselves from scratch," Pollard said.

"We looked around the world and couldn't find anything like it. We've also been through a couple of design iterations and (occupational health and safety) testing."

Pollard said Livewire worked with hospital IT teams to install ADSL and wireless access points.

It was complicated by hospitals' infrastructure and site characteristics, such as wall thickness.

This meant there was no one-size-fits-all solution and sites were treated on their merits.

Tests of the sites' wireless networks are also required to ensure they dont interfere with medical equipment, Pollard said.

Livewire is close to finalising deals with hardware and network providers for discounted supply of the various components.

"We're in the process of talking to a number of companies but haven't signed deals with any laptop companies as yet," Pollard said.

"We're also talking to a telco as well and are very close to establishing a partnership."

The Livewire community was in development for about 18 months. It has 850 registered users but Pollard is targeting 20,000 registrations by the end of the year.

It is broken down into three smaller sites that provide content relevant to those aged 10-14, 15-17 and over 18.

Separate sites are in the pipeline for siblings and parents of children with serious illnesses or disability.

The sites run audio and video, news, interactive games and other youth-oriented content. Users can also upload their own photos and blogs to the site and participate in chat rooms.

Livewire is exploring partnerships with charities, which would give them co-branded access to its platform.

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