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Scottish councils are drawing up plans to ensure all local government services are available online in less than fi...
Scottish councils are drawing up plans to ensure all local government services are available online in less than five years.

Scottish Executive ministers Jack McConnell, Peter Peacock and Frank McAveety, who cover finance, education and local government respectively, met council leaders and chief executives to discuss plans to make sure all 32 councils are online by 2005.

A fund of£25m has been set up to support projects from the public sector which use new technology. The successful applicants will be announced later this year.

Mr Peacock, deputy minister for children and education, said councils needed to show initiative and imagination to make Scotland one of the leading high-tech societies in Europe.

'Local government provides the vast bulk of services, so will play a crucial role in making Scotland part of the digital society. There are so many new forms of technology which will transform life in Scotland, particularly in rural areas. There are huge challenges and huge opportunities for local government,' he said.

Nearly all Scottish councils have their own websites, but only a handful run services for clients using new technology - presenting councils with an enormous task to meet the deadline set by finance minister Mr McConnell.

He said: 'We have to meet the target for 2005, but it seems many people are not yet comfortable with the technology. We can legislate and facilitate but we also need to deliver. We have to be clear about what services will be made available and use the technology we've already got, not just for Scotland as a whole but for each individual authority.'

Concerns were aired at the meeting that people already excluded by the onset of the digital age would fall further behind as community services become more high-tech.

City of Glasgow Council leader Charlie Gordon said: 'It's crucial to consider the danger of creating an information poor society. Many people may have access to technology in their homes while others have to try and use library facilities, where and when they are available.'

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