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Monday, 11 September, 2000, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Blair unveils internet plans
man learning to use computer
The cost of internet training is being cut by 80%
The UK will become the best country in the world for e-commerce, the prime minister has promised.

Tony Blair was setting out a raft of measures to boost internet use in the UK, including a 1bn drive to get all government services online by 2005 and 15m to help businesses make the most of the web.

Mr Blair said:
90% of workers are now employed in businesses connected to the internet
A third of the UK population is now online
The UK boasts Europe's largest e-commerce market with 2bn spending last year
The prime minister also announced the first raft of 600 online centres to give hi-tech access to poorer communities.

Mr Blair said the government's initiative, called UK Online, was aimed at ensuring the country's economy did not fall into two - old and new.

"There is no new economy. There is one economy all of it being transformed by information technology," he said.

"What is happening is no fad that will come and go - it is a profound economic revolution."

'Best training'

The economy was all one and what mattered was whether companies mastered the information technology change, he told his audience in Loughborough.

The government drive had three aims: to make sure the UK was the best place to do e-commerce, to ensure universal net access for all and to ensure all government services were available on the net.

He said ministers were putting in place training measures, such as:

  • 600 online centres to give hi-tech access to poorer communities
  • piloting internet access in post offices
  • offering discounts of 80% to all adults for online courses, bringing a 200 course down to 40.
"This, we believe, is the most comprehensive and affordable IT training programme in the world," he said.

The extra 15m given to businesses would be used to provide advice face-to-face or by telephone, he said.

And he underlined his determination that by 2005, all government services should be online.

Tony Blair
Tony Blair wants the entire population using the web within five years
From next year, for example, the unemployed would be able to search job vacancies from home or in a JobCentre kiosk.

"The whole shape of our economy will be changed by this new technology, that's why UK Online is so vital.

"If we live up to the challenge of the knowledge economy, we can reverse the decades of decline we suffered in the 20th Century and become one of the world's most successful economies in the 21st Century."

Targeting the homeless

The prime minister said Britain now had the best off-peak rates for connection to the internet in the world.

The new community-based computer centres are aimed at helping the homeless and jobless rejoin society.

Pilot projects have been running up and down the country since January, but critics say care will have to be taken to ensure that the help the centres give is properly targeted and delivers the benefits to the right people.

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See also:

11 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Blair's net promises
09 Dec 99 | UK Politics
More promised @
28 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Britain digitally divided say ministers
21 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
When the web is not world-wide
11 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Some Britons still refuse to surf
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