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Tuesday, 7 March, 2000, 12:08 GMT
Blair's five-year internet pledge
Tony Blair
Tony Blair at the knowledge economy conference
Prime Minister Tony Blair has set out his strategy to tackle the threat of a "digital divide", with a pledge to get everyone in the UK online within five years.

Mr Blair told a conference on the "knowledge economy" on Tuesday how important the internet will be in everyone's lives - and that universal access was a must for all.

internet cafe
Blair: Internet for all
He stressed that the internet should not become the preserve of the young and the better off.

He told the joint CBI, TUC and government conference: "It is likely that the internet in time will become as ubiquitous as electricity is today.

"The knowledge economy must be an economy for the many and not the few.

"Universal internet access has to be available to all."

To highlight the government's record on new technology, Mr Blair pointed to a string of Labour commitments on the internet including:

  • National Grid for Learning, connecting schools and libraries up to the Internet by 2002
  • 1,000 information technology learning centres
  • Passing 100,000 refurbished computers to low income families
  • Discounts of 80% on basic information technology courses by September this year.

The Prime Minister also declared Britain was performing well in the European "e-league" of nations using the new technology.

He said: "We are ahead of Germany and France, although they will try to catch up."

One in six Britons already have access to the internet, a 200% increase in a single year.

Britons spent more time - 12 hours a week on average - logged on than their Continental counterparts.

A report by management consultants Booz, Allen and Hamilton, published on Tuesday, showed Britain carried out e-trading worth $1.89bn, compared with $1.65bn in Germany, $1.2bn in France and a European average of $484m.

Also at the conference, Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett announced plans for an online service linking vacancies, skills programmes and careers advice.
David Blunkett
Blunkett: Plan for online job vacancies
Mr Blunkett said jobseekers would be able to look for work by surfing the internet either at home or in shopping centres and pubs through the Learning and Work Bank.

The scheme, which will be launched later this year, will include a web site with hundreds of thousands of vacancies from jobcentres and recruitment agencies.

Job vacancies will be followed up by calling a national jobs telephone line.

Mr Blunkett told the conference: "People will be able to access the Learning and Work Bank in employment centres, shopping centres, libraries and even pubs."

See also:

06 Mar 00 | Business
29 Feb 00 | UK Education
27 Sep 99 | Scotland
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