Blair's internet access for all

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11th Sep 2000
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The prime minister is preparing the governments ambitious plans of providing internet access to everyone in the UK within the next five years.

The government's plans to aid internet access to everyone was first revealed at Labour's first party conference after gaining power when Mr Blair promised a computer in every classroom by 2002.

The National Grid for Learning initiative which has cost around £700m, has allowed local authorities to connect schools to the internet and training for teachers. Public Libraries have also received around £3m.

Mr Blair believes that the internet has the power to change lives and by providing access to all would be an end to the social digital divide. Research highlights that how much people earns governs whether they are able to go on-line within households.

Nine months ago, a series of government announcements were made, aimed at the internet revolution to the socially excluded and the promises included:

  • Making 100,000 recycled computers available to people who would not otherwise have access to the internet. The computers would be leased or bought.
  • Create 1,000 Learn Direct centres in sports clubs, pubs and churches by the end of 2001, at a cost of £252m.
  • Provide 100% of public services on-line by the end of 2008.
  • Upgrade the way government would provide information on-line, instructing departments to prove their openness and responsiveness through information provided on the net.
  • Guarantee all government web-sites could be accessed by the blind using voice technology.

Not only did Mr Blair believe that the Internet would change people's social behaviour but also the way in which business was carried out.

In March this year, the government set further aims at closing the social gap in the UK. A report was released called Closing the Digital Divide that stated that all people in deprived urban areas should have access to the computers and the internet and here are the list of later recommendations:

  • Internet points set up in places such as pubs, community centres, post offices, bus and train stations.
  • The aid of technology to help those with transport difficulties for shopping, making use of government services and healthcare.
  • Every job-seeker is promised a voucher for free computer training, worth around £400 each.

Latest plans also include offering tax breaks to companies willing to lend computers to their employees and offering new web users 80% discounts on basic IT courses.

Government critics will be waiting for Mr Blair's speech at a high-tech company in Loughborough to see whether these initiatives are in fact new or recycled announcements.

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