Government plans to bring free Internet access to poor

£10m fund to bridge the digital divide

The government is to invest £10m in a scheme to bring free Internet services to Britain's most deprived areas.

The project will provide free computers, connection and Internet surfing to people living on estates, tower blocks and low-income rural areas. Details of how families can qualify for this scheme are not yet finalised.

Michael Wills, Minister for Learning and Technology emphasises the importance of this scheme to prevent a digital divide in Britain. "The risk of a digital divide is real," he says in a statement. "Just 18 percent of those in low socio-economic groups have a computer compared with 65 percent in the upper groups."

The government is also calling on private firms to offer their services. "Government alone cannot bridge the gap," continues Wills. "That is why we are looking to the private sector to work with us in wiring up disadvantaged communities."

The Social Exclusion Unit recently published a report showing that as more services move online there is the growing danger that people on low incomes will become increasingly less able to access job-seeking, health education and information facilities.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Smith endorses this announcement commenting, " It will empower people by giving them access to learning and job opportunities. It will also be a gateway to the vast information sources that many of us already take for granted in the information age."

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