E-envoy calls for help bridging digital divide

Rural areas suffering admits acting e-envoy

The UK's acting e-envoy Andrew Pinder called on representatives of the ISP industry to help close Britain's economic and geographic digital divisions Tuesday,

The government, which is keen to see universal Net access available in the UK, has several projects of its own to help bridge the digital divide. These include initiatives to distribute free PCs in deprived areas and open Internet access points across the country. It is hoped private/public partnership will help cover the cost of access. The government claims it is on target to meet its own Internet commitments of getting all government services online by 2002.

"The socio-economic divide [when it comes to Internet access] is something we're worried about and would like to close," said Pinder tothe fifth annual ISPA (Internet Service Providers' Association) Parliamentary forum on Tuesday. Pinder admitted that many rural areas of Britain currently have no prospect of obtaining broadband Internet services such as ADSL. "Geographic divide is something we're also worried about and we hope you'll play a part in providing a diverse variety of access means," he said.

Pinder said the government plans a new advertising campaign to promote its UKOnline scheme, which is designed to encourage Internet adoption in the UK. Prime minister Tony Blair launched UKOnline in September 2000 promising to deliver universal Internet access in Britain by 2005.

The government is currently seeking a full-time e-envoy and hopes to announce the appointee in the next few weeks.

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