Internet creates haves and have-nots - survey

Almost half of British public believes Internet is widening gap between rich and poor, study finds

A survey conducted by MORI on behalf of the World Internet Forum has found the British public concerned about Internet haves and have-nots.

Almost half of the British public believes that the Internet is widening the gap between the rich and poor, according to the survey. Despite assurances from Prime Minister Tony Blair that the whole nation will have access to the Net, the public remains sceptical. The results follow the summit on economic growth in Florence last month where President Clinton claimed the Internet was creating the world's new haves and have-nots.

The UK government has promised to put all government services online by 2008 but the message is not getting through to the public, the survey finds. Twenty-eight percent did not have an opinion on what the government is doing and a further 28 percent just did not know.

On a more optimistic note, the Internet is regarded by the majority of respondents as way of building closer relationships with Europe. Over half (53 percent) believe that the Net will improve relationships with the rest of Europe. People are also recognising the value of the Internet as an educational tool with three-quarters (73 percent) claming children benefited from using the Net in school.

Derek Wyatt MP, chairman and founder of the World Internet Forum is not surprised by the findings. "Each of these areas, privilege, Europe and education, show how the Internet is pervading our lives currently," he said in a statement. He points out the need for the government to explain its wired plans in more detail. "There does appear to be a huge communication job for government, and I suspect not just the government of the UK, to do in enlightening citizens on what they are working towards on the Internet and all the opportunities this presents."

Britain will play host to the first World Internet Forum next year. Five hundred business leaders and 500 government officials from around the world have been invited to the four-day conference in Oxford to discuss the future of the Internet and how it will affect education, health, culture and commerce.

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