HC Deb 07 November 2000 vol 356 c197W
Mr. Sayeed

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what measures the Government are taking to address the digital divide in education. [136542]

Mr. Wills

The Prime Minister has given a commitment that, by 2005, all those who want it will have the opportunity to access the Internet. We are currently investing more than £1.7 billion in initiatives to ensure everyone is able to reap the rewards of the digital revolution.

In schools, good progress is being made in improving computer/pupil ratios, and 88 per cent. of all schools are now connected to the Internet. In future, all school leavers should be able to use and benefit from new technologies.

We are also tackling the difficulties that a significant minority of adults currently face in accessing ICT. On 11 September the Prime Minister set out the Government's agenda to get the UK on line. We have pledged that by the end of 2002 there will be around 6,000 UK online centres with access points in many public libraries and around 1,000 learning centres specifically focused on the most deprived urban and rural wards. 50,000 free computer-training courses are being made available for jobless people across the country under our UK online Computer Training scheme. We are also piloting an initiative to wire up homes and schools in some of the most disadvantaged areas. And we are introducing the 'Computers Within Reach' pilot scheme to enable around 100,000 low-income learners and families to acquire reconditioned computers.