Page last updated at 15:23 GMT, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 16:23 UK

Digital inclusion strategy for UK

By Jane Wakefield
Technology reporter, BBC News

Computer user
Two thirds of Briton have access to a computer

A strategy to get the last third of unconnected Britons online is being drawn up, said Paul Murphy, minister for digital inclusion.

In his first speech since his appointment, he revealed the strategy could be in place by summer.

Some 17 million citizens in the UK did not have access to a computer, either at home or at work, he said.

The minister did not set a timescale, but said it would be in line with EU plans to halve the gap by 2010.

"Chances are these people come from an older or socially, economically or geographically disadvantaged group," said Mr Murphy.

Admitting that he was "not a technical person", Mr Murphy said that he had been studying what was involved in the role since prime minister Gordon Brown appointed him in January.

"The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I didn't need to be technical at all. It also became pretty obvious the enormity of the work," he told delegates at the National Digital Inclusion Conference in London.

Mission statement

The new cabinet committee set up by Mr Murphy met for the first time last week.

"We came up with the following mission statement: To co-ordinate policies and a coherent strategy that all citizens, especially the disadvantaged, can benefit from new technologies," he told the conference.

Delegates welcomed the appointment of the first cabinet minister to have responsibility for digital exclusion.

"The vision from government seems now to be bigger and bolder," said Helen Milner, managing director of UK Online centres, community-based groups aimed at connecting the disconnected.

Jim Knight, minister for schools and learners, also had an ambitious target for his Children, Schools and Families department.

"Our aim is to get access to every household with a child aged between five and 19," he told delegates.

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