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Wednesday, 27 June, 2001, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Labour warned over digital divide
Tony Blair
Tony Blair's policy on the net may not be working
Targets to get the UK population online could be missed by the government, a leading left-wing think tank has warned.

The Fabian Society is concerned that many poor and disadvantaged people will simply not see the point in using the internet, if there is no content directed at them.


The internet is full of content aimed at affluent consumers

Fabian Society
The society's research director Adrian Harvey said: "If lastminute.com is all that's available, why should the disadvantaged bother with learning the internet?"

The Fabians, a group affiliated to Labour, praised the government's drive to increase access through such projects as UK Online Centres and Wired Up Communities but doubted whether providing access alone would bridge the "digital divide" between rich and poor.

In its report the society says: "The internet is full of content aimed at affluent consumers but what if you need to know about hostels for the homeless or you are desperate to find someone to turn as a victim of domestic violence?

"The answer, is that generally, you cannot. The experience of being excluded, of not being a valued member of society, is reinforced."

Focus on content

It continues saying: "If the government is serious about the digital divide, it needs to start to focus on content - both what is available and who produces it."

The think-tank urges both government and local authorities to help enable the disadvantaged to produce content aimed at their peers.

The group's research was based on case studies of eight projects across the country which worked with the homeless, young offenders and Muslim women to develop relevant content.

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