HC Deb 11 January 2001 vol 360 c622W
33. Dr. Starkey

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to ensure that adults in disadvantaged communities gain information and communication technology skills. [143492]

Mr. Wills

The Government are committed, by 2005, to providing access to the internet and information and communications technology (ICT) to everyone who wants it including those in the most disadvantaged communities.

We are taking significant steps towards tackling the difficulties adults in disadvantaged communities face in accessing ICT so that they are able to play an active part in the digital revolution. On 11 September the Prime Minister set out the Government's strategy for getting the UK online. The Prime Minister also announced over 600 successful applications in the first phase of the UK online centres funded through the Capital Modernisation Fund (CMF). These CMF funded centres are specifically targeting the most deprived urban and rural areas and will provide access to ICT and learning provision. By 2002 there will be around 6,000 UK online centres throughout England. These will be based in the heart of local communities in the most convenient locations including public libraries, colleges and community centres.

Learndirect was launched nationally on 25 October 2000. Its services are relevant to people with all kinds of backgrounds, social and economic circumstances and skill needs. The network of learndirect centres, over 770 of which are already in place, will provide local learning facilities offering a supported, end-to-end learning experience.

Learndirect's emphasis on making learning easily accessible makes it possible to target the whole population and yet still reach those who may feel let down by traditional learning. This inclusive approach is supported by the provision of learning which is tailored to meet the needs and commitments of the learner and end-to-end learner support.

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 communities in England, and we are introducing the 'Computers within Reach' pilot scheme in which, in the period up to the end of March 2001, we intend to provide 35,000 recycled computers in local pilots in deprived communities.