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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 January 2006, 18:14 GMT
Half of Wales 'has no web access'
Man working on a computer
Computer skills are needed for 90% of new jobs
More than half of the Welsh population has no access to the internet, leading to a 9m assembly government project for better computer literacy.

Communities@One has been set up to encourage people to learn computer skills to help bridge what has become known as the digital divide.

Computer use is lowest in some of the poorest parts of Wales, with areas like Cardiff and Swansea having high usage.

Experts predict social exclusion unless people become more computer literate.

According to a report carried out by the Welsh Consumer Council in 2005, 56% of the Welsh population has no access to the internet at home or at work.

Unless people have a degree of engagement with technology, they are going to get left behind
Alun Burge

And it is predicted that 90% of all new jobs require some knowledge of technology.

It has led to the assembly government funding a project to encourage people living in Communities First areas - some of the most deprived in Wales - to use computers.

Alun Burge, who is heading the project, said encouraging people to take up some computer skills was vital for the Welsh economy.

"Society is becoming increasingly reliant on technology and unless people have a degree of engagement with technology, they are going to get left behind," he said.

"At the moment, it's still socially acceptable to say 'I'm rubbish with computers', but you never hear someone boasting that they are illiterate or innumerate."

Debbie Holmes
Debbie Holmes said computer skills were vital for social inclusion

The three-year project aims to inform community groups about IT services available in their local areas. It will have local 'brokers' who pass on information about what services are available to community groups.

It is thought to be one of the first schemes of its kind in the UK and is expected to be a model to which others could follow.

But why are such a high percentage of people in Wales computer-illiterate?


"I think there are a lot of people who have never used computers because there are so many perceived barriers," said Debbie Holmes, who will work in north-east Wales as one of 11 brokers being employed as part of the Communities@One project.

"Many people don't see the need for using them because they haven't had to use them in their jobs so far, for example.

"And they can't see what relevance they would have on their lives by using them.

"There are also a number of other reasons - many people who have never used a computer are actually quite scared of using a computer in case they break them and they are also worried about the cost of computers."

"My husband became interested in computers when we were buying a car and because he was able to get a cheaper car on-line, it demonstrated the usefulness of it to him," added Ms Holmes.

The scheme was launched in New Tredegar by Social Justice and Regeneration Minister Edwina Hart.

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