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A Year Ago: Government to tackle 'digital divide'

First published: Mon, 31 Jan 2000 16:30:43 GMT

The government Monday published a report that highlights a 'digital divide' in technology skills among UK socio-economic groups

Minister for Learning and Technology, Michael Wills announced a £252m initiative to tackle the problem.

The report's findings showed that although 90 percent of new jobs required computing skills, 52 percent of lower socio-economic groups described their computing knowledge as non-existent.

The government has committed to providing 700 new ICT (Information and Communications Technology) Learning Centres. These will provide across the board technology skills and will be located in a range of venues, including pubs, mobile units and football clubs.

A prospectus for the initiative outlines how local community groups and the private sector can apply to set up their own ICT Learning Centre. The deadline for applications is 5 May and the government expects the first centres to be open by September. £2.3m has been allocated to the first 13 projects.

"These centres will help bridge the digital divide," stated Wills, "While new technology can offer great opportunities, there is also a danger that many will not be able to take advantage of them [which is why we are] bringing ICT to people's doorsteps."

Other shocking findings of the report include the fact that although 94 percent of AB1 men aged 25-54 have used a computer, this drops to 9 percent for women aged 55+ in lower socio-economic groups. It also discovered that 71 percent of those in work have used a computer, compared to 32 percent of those unemployed.

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