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Monday, 31 January, 2000, 01:04 GMT
Centres to bridge 'digital divide'

Computers Adults need to match the computer skills of their children

The government is set to launch a network of learning centres designed to close the gap between the information technology haves and have-nots.

Research published on Monday shows that while 90% of newly-created jobs require computer skills, 52% of people in low-income groups say they have no experience of using computers.

In an attempt to bridge this 'digital divide', the Minister for Learning and Technology, Michael Wills, has announced details of the first phase of information technology learning centres.

There will be 13 centres at a cost of 2.3m - the beginning of a 252m initiative to set up 700 in places as diverse as pubs and football clubs.

Encouraging technophobes

Among the schemes are the Learning Pub and the Grove Project in Stafford, where technophobes can learn about computers in a pub.

A centre at Burnley Football Club will encourage men to develop information technology skills.

"While new technology can offer great opportunities, there is also a danger that many will not be able to take advantage of them," said the minister.

"When information and communications technology skills are a 'must-have' for most job applicants, it is essential that we reach out to provide everyone with the skills needed to help them into those jobs."

The centres are intended to offer accessible advice and training to people who might need computer skills to improve their employment opportunities.

The survey found that computer skills were strongest among those in better-paid employment.

Among the unemployed, only 32% were experienced in using computers, compared with 70% of those in employment.

The greatest familiarity with computers was among young men in higher-paid jobs - a pattern that was also reflected in the home ownership of computers.

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See also:
02 Nov 99 |  Education
50m boost for online learning
03 Nov 99 |  Education
Performance pay for school computers
09 Nov 99 |  Education
Cyber pub appeals to students
20 Apr 99 |  Education
Online education 'increases inequality'

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