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The biggest videoconferencing network of its kind in Britain, linking the national assembly with every local author...
The biggest videoconferencing network of its kind in Britain, linking the national assembly with every local authority in Wales, has been launched by first secretary Rhodri Morgan.

The network links 33 sites, including the national assembly, its divisional offices, the office of the secretary of state for Wales in London, all 22 local authorities and the Welsh Local Government Association.

These sites will also be able to link to other users of the standard based equipment.

Mr Morgan said: 'This network is the biggest of its kind in Britain. It is going to have a dramatic effect on the way those involved in government in Wales work, by bringing us closer to each other and to the three million people of Wales.

'The assembly and local government will be able to communicate far more effectively. That over-used phrase 'joined up government' will be made a reality. The scope will be there for people and businesses in parts of Wales, and outside Wales, to contact Assembly members from wherever they live. This will make it one of the most accessible legislative bodies in the world.

'There are economic and environmental benefits as well. It will mean that unnecessary journeys will be cut out as well as reducing pollution.

'I have often stated my commitment to open government. In April of this year, I decided to make public the minutes of cabinet meetings. The decision to launch this network is another step in the same direction.

'This is using the most modern technology to improve the workings of our new democracy. More visibility and more accountability means better quality democracy. Politicians should never be beyond the reach of ordinary people, above all in Wales, above all in the age of devolution.

'This network will make us easier to reach, and as a result, will bring us closer

to our partners in local government, and closer to the people we represent.'

The contract to install the equipment was won by BT. The company's national manager Wales, Ann Beynon, said: 'Wales already has the infrastructure to enable its businesses to compete in an increasingly global marketplace and I believe this initiative by the national assembly will highlight the value of videoconferencing and other business tools to local government and businesses throughout the UK.'

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