Blair promises £1bn for broadband

21 Nov 02
The prime minister has pledged that all primary and secondary schools will have high-speed Internet access by 2006 as part of a £6bn information technology spend over the next three years.

22 November 2002

Tony Blair told a government 'e-summit' on November 19 in London that more than £1bn will be invested in providing broadband Internet access for public services, including GP surgeries, hospitals and primary care trusts. The government has set a target of having all its services on-line by 2005.

'For the public services, the real opportunity is to use information technology to help create improvement in the efficiency, convenience and quality of our services,' Blair said.

'I consider the question of how we harness the potential of technological change, alongside the related question of science, to be the fundamental economic and social challenge of our future.'

The government wants to introduce IT solutions into day-to-day tasks such as the issuing of prescriptions and patient-booking services. It has outlined its challenges as creating an IT-literate workforce; applying new technology to spark productivity and innovation in business and public services; and ensuring universal access to IT.

Digby Jones, the director general of the CBI, echoed Blair's belief that mastering information technology was vital for the British economy. He said: 'We are talking about an opportunity for government to deliver better services for the taxpayer. If we get it right, "e"could stand for equality and education.'

An independent study unveiled at the conference reported that, in a league measuring the best countries for e-commerce, the UK was ahead of European countries and Japan and was second only to the US. The report rated the G7 countries, Sweden and Australia in terms of the cost of Internet access, IT skills and political leadership in promoting e-commerce.

The world's most effective policies for the e-economy stated: 'The UK has not yet reached its target of being the best environment for e-commerce, but has made substantial progress since 1998 when the target was set.

'The UK has many environmental strengths, although these have yet to be translated into high levels of uptake and use of the Internet.'


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