Nearly ￡ 50 million pounds of funding was announced recently for 64 partnership projects aimed at helping deliver better public services online. A number of them based on broadband services- Local authorities are making the most of new technologies in providing more accessible services of better quality to the public. All Britain public Jibraries offer Internet access today, and around a quarter of them offer broadband access.
If schools, surgeries and government offices in an area ail want to connect to broadband services, then suppliers can be persuaded to install broadband locally, so widening the infrastructure support at a local community level And it is interesting to see at the moment how local community campaigns around the country are proving effective in pressuring the suppliers to deliver broadband and marshalling the demand to make it worthwhile.
I believe the strategy we are following will give everybody the opportunity to benefit from the development of the digital economy. If you go into a Job Centre today, you will find not those awful old boards with scruffy little postcards about local jobs, but smart kiosks providing information in a much more respectful way about jobs not just locally but right across the country. Those kiosks are part of the reason why unemployment fell again last month, despite everything that is happening in the world economy, to the lowest level for nearly thirty years. That is a good example of how we can use the digital transformation of our economy to benefit those who have: been on the wrong end of the rich / poor divide in the past and ensure that we do not put a new digital divide in its place.
There will be many more community based benefits. Local medical centers, schools and libraries will all receive new and modem resources that the public can use. Opportunities for small scale companies and new services will provide benefits for all the community. Everyone has access to public libraries. Developments will be on a vast scale overall t but individually they will be small and local in their impact.
And in the Government we are also working to match companies to community initiatives, which promote the hitmen The UK online partnerships programmer has helped develop several initiatives, including the partnership between Age Concern and Abbey National to provide Internet access for older people.
So the Government’s vision is to see private and public sector organizations in the UK take account of their economic, social and environmental impact, and takecom-plementary action to address key challenges based on their core competence一locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.
When I started my work at the DU in May, one of the things I came across in my; reading material was a remarkably prescient article from 1968 written by the American Internet pioneer JCR Licklider. Writing then about what he called the "interconnected electronic network", he said that it would prove to be a tremendous boon to; mankind But, he said, whether that potential was realized or not would depend on whether "to be online" was "a privilege or a right".
The concern he raised is a pressing one today, 34 years later. And what we can see today is that we all need to work together—corporates acting in a responsible way, Government and public organizations—to ensure that access to the digital economy will not be a privilege for a few, but will be an opportunity extended to every single person in our society. And we need to work together to achieve that.