HC Deb 20 July 2004 vol 424 cc153-4
23. Mr. Anthony D. Wright (Great Yarmouth) (Lab)

What steps are being taken to ensure that Government websites are designed around the needs of the general public. [184910]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Douglas Alexander)

Designing services around customer needs has always been at the heart of the Government drive to put services online. The e—government unit has recently launched Directgov, and is assisting Departments with service design and delivery standards to meet these aims. Directgov was designed around the needs of the user by bringing together information, from across many Departments, in a way that makes it easy for people to find what they want online.

Mr. Wright

In my constituency of Great Yarmouth, two online learning centres, one of which is mobile, have given 5,000 of my constituents access to online services. However, many people needing information from Government sites still cannot get access to computers. Will my hon. Friend say whether there will be more investment in online sites for people in deprived communities such as Great Yarmouth, so that they can gain access to the information that the Government are making available?

Mr. Alexander

There are seven UK online centres in Great Yarmouth, and a further 20 such centres in a 15-mile radius. To give the House a sense of the scale of the investment that we have made, I can say that £396 million has been invested in networks of the 6,000 UK online centres across the country. In addition, many households now have direct access to online services. Our key challenge is not simply to ensure that access exists, but that all sections of society have the opportunity to use the new technology and are encouraged to do so. We set up the "Get Started" initiative last year to make sure that people who previously had been denied such opportunities, such as older people, were able to use the new online centres.