New research centre on the impacts of technology

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22nd Sep 2000
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A new research centre is to be created to investigate the impact of new technology on society. Michael Wills the Minister for Learning and Technology welcomed the new research centre that will spearhead the government's drive to end the digital divide.

The centre will bring together individuals to form an expert body in the development, review and use of Information Communications Technology research nationally and internationally. It will carry out a programme of research, review and analysis designed to build up a comprehensive database of knowledge.

Speaking today Mr Wills said, "Research centres are a new and welcome departure for the DfEE. I hope that the new centre will develop a better understanding of the technological revolution. Not since the Industrial Revolution has a technology effected such rapid changes in society. As we enter the 21st century a rigorous understanding of new technology will be crucial to anyone who wants to succeed in the wired or the wireless world.

"Research into new technology and digital communications will provide the Government with invaluable knowledge that will help to ensure future policies are able to address the many issues that new technology raises."

It is envisaged that the focus of the centre will evolve over time, in response to the fast pace of developments. However, it will focus initially on two areas - the link between technology skills and employment and access issues:

  • investigating how new technology can motivate the economically inactive,
  • analysing how the possession of IT skills impacts on an
    individual,s employability and the benefits to business of having increased levels of ICT skills in the workforce,
  • assessing the extent and range of access to new technology available to different population groups,
  • differentiating between domestic, work-based and commercially provided opportunities.

"At present the current level of ICT skills of the adult population is unlikely to meet future skills demands. If left unchecked the skills shortage has the potential to seriously undermine UK competitiveness across many sectors of industry. Forecasting future IT skills needs is difficult especially given the rapid speed of technical change. Research will enable the government to understand key trends, analyse needs and respond with accurate policies".

"Access is another issue that demands further investigation. If the world is not to be divided between the information rich and poor and a division is not to be created along traditional class and gender lines then the issue of access must be addressed. We must ensure that
everyone through the widening of access and the attainment of new skills can benefit from the opportunities created by new technology."

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