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TOWER BLOCKS GO ONLINE -£10M TO WIRE UP COMMUNITIES (ENGLAND)

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A£10m pilot project will 'wire-up' deprived communities ...
A£10m pilot project will 'wire-up' deprived communities

around England. The project will provide a window into the future,

assessing how home access to the internet and email can transform

lives in the most disadvantaged communities.

Homes in a number of pilot estates, tower blocks and rural areas will

be brought online and linked to their own community web with access

to government, job, health and education services. Families in these

wired-up communities will find a range of ways to enhance their lives

using new technology.

A new mother will be able to tap into health services such as NHS

Direct or the Parents website; children will access on-line revision

and sites offering help with homework; an unemployed father could

join an Internet job club and elderly relatives can take advantage of

online shopping, cutting the burden of heavy shopping bags. Other

local people will benefit too:

- a local community worker can find out about government services,

such as information on benefit entitlement and pensions

- a local teacher can tap into a range of services from online lesson

plans to a database full of tips and advice from other teachers

across the country

Minister for learning and technology Michael Wills announced the

initiative at the Local Government Association conference, Tomorrow's

Socially Excluded. He said:

'We are committed to providing universal access to the internet. New

technology has tremendous power to connect people to opportunities in

education, employment and with one another. This project will reveal

how new technology might help us to re-connect people who have felt

cut off from the possibilities of the new emerging technologies.

'The risk of a digital divide is real. Just 18% of those in low

socio-economic groups have a computer at home, compared to 65% of

those in the upper groups. The recent Policy Action Team (PAT 15)

report highlighted the danger of excluding people when health,

banking, government, education and job services are increasingly

available online.

'Government alone cannot bridge the gap - that is why we are looking

to the private sector to work with us in wiring up disadvantaged

communities. A number of successful projects are already under way,

but a whole range of new technologies have dramatically expanded the

possibilities. This project will allow the private sector and

government to deploy these technologies and properly assess their

impact on communities and individuals.

'This project will link communities with more than just wires by

providing a holistic approach to regeneration and ensuring that

important initiatives such as New Deal for Communities and the£252m ICT Learning Centres work together with maximum benefit to

the local area.'

Welcoming the project, chief secretary to the treasury Andrew Smith

said:

'This project has the potential to help transform the lives of

people in some of our most disadvantaged communities. It will empower

people by giving them access to learning and job opportunities. It

will also be a gateway to the vast information sources that many of

us already take for granted in the information age.'

NOTES

1. The£10m Wired Communities project is supported by the

Capital Modernisation Fund. The Capital Modernisation Fund was set up

in the Comprehensive Spending Review to support capital investment to

improve public services. An additional£200m was added to the

Fund for 2000-01 as part of the Budget 2000 announcement to take the

total size of the Fund to£2.7bn over 1999-00 to 2001-02.

2. The Wired Communities pilot projects test six key issues: impact -

the impact of new technologies on different types of community;

integration - how best to complement existing programmes in the most

disadvantaged communities;

technology - the most appropriate technological approaches -

including both the architecture to wire up the households and the

different ways in which to view software and internet resources, such

as televisions and computers;

public private sector partnerships - how best to involve and work

with the private sector;

services - what facilities, services and support should be offered

to the communities;

sustainability - ensuring communities take up the technologies as

their own and foster long-term development.

2. The PAT 15 report can be downloaded from the PAT 15 website

www.pat15.org.uk

3. The New Deal for Communities is a DETR sponsored initiative to

help some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country. A total

of£880m has been set aside to help disadvantaged areas in

partnership with local organisations. These partnerships are

developing detailed long-term strategies for change in their areas.

For further details, check: www.regeneration.detr.gov.uk/ndc

4. The Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Learning

Centres initiative is a new programme designed to help bridge the gap

between those who have access to new technologies and those who do

not. The aim is to establish around 700 ICT Learning Centres across

England, which will help to bring access to new technology and

learning into disadvantaged communities. For further details, check:

www.dfee.gov.uk/ict-learning-centres

5. The contact for companies or community organisations to register

interest expressions of interest is Adam Bennett: 1F Caxton House,

Tothill St, London, SW1H 9NA email - adam.bennett@dfee.gov.uk

6. Timing: The pilots will be up and running from the end of 2001 and

further announcements will be made in due course.

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