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NEWS Tuesday, 9 March, 1999, 19:01 GMT
1.7bn investment in computers
Brown: Computer learning centres for all
Brown: Computer learning centres for all
By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall

The UK Government is launching a 1.7bn scheme to make the nation a leader in using information technology.

The money will be spent on setting up a national network of computer learning centres, one for every community, set up in schools, colleges, libraries and in internet cafes.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, said that Britain's companies and its people would be equipped for the "newest and most decisive economic challenge of the 21st century" - mastering information technology.

He told the Commons this meant everything from the PC to the Internet, from e-mail to e-commerce. There would be tax cuts and public investment to ensure Britain was ready.

Computers everywhere

The Computers for All initiative would be a nationwide effort enlisting schools, colleges, libraries, Internet cafes and the High Street.

There would be a computer learning centre for every community: "A whole new network of computer learning with one purpose only, that the whole of Britain is equipped for the information age," he said.

Software lending libraries

"Inequality in computer learning today will mean inequality in earning power tomorrow," he continued.

"So to bring more computers into British homes, we will legislate so that employees will be able to borrow computers from their companies as a tax-free benefit."

"We will pioneer a system under which local partnerships will be able to loan computers and software in the new century the way local libraries have loaned books in the last century."

Information Age targets

Mr Brown said ambitious targets had been set for the new economy:

  • Within three years, one million small businesses able to benefit from e-commerce.

  • 32,000 schools connected to the Internet, with 370,000 teachers computer-trained.

  • New help worth 20m making it possible for more teachers to have computers for home use.

In other Internet-related measures, Mr Brown said small businesses filing their tax returns electronically would be offered a discount and Individual Learning Accounts would be expanded to open up tax-free learning in computer skills.

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