Blair promises Broadband revolution

Speaking at an international e-summit, Blair pledged that by 2006, every primary and secondary school would have broadband connections.

Blair said every doctor’s surgery, hospital, primary care trust and health authority, and the entire criminal justice system, would be broadband enabled. ‘We aim to have all government services online by 2005. Our strategy will focus on key categories in NHS, education, transport, benefits, tax and criminal justice,’ he said.

‘Our plan is not only to offer more convenient access to services but also to transform how we organise mainstream delivery,’ he said.

The government is setting up an internet taskforce within the Department of Trade and Industry to ensure value for money. It will be headed by Peter Craine and will oversee government procurement, to improve the broadband availability across the UK.

‘This is the first time the government has asked departments to work out what they spend on IT,’ said Anthony Walker, chief executive of the Broadband Stakeholder Group. ‘Now they are pulling it all together.’

The announcement was welcomed by the group, which has told the government that although in many areas broadband would always be market driven, where the demand is not enough to attract a supplier to the area, there had to be government responsibility. ‘Tony Blair has recognised the power of government as a procurer of services. By establishing the taskforce he is bringing together the purchasing power of government agencies,’ said Walker.

‘In areas where there is not enough demand for broadband access, if public services such as libraries, schools and government agencies combine they can create enough demand to pull in a supplier. Overseeing this will be a key role for the taskforce,’ he added.

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