Prime Minister Tony Blair has promised a broadband revolution in the UK over the next few years, kick-started by the government.
Speaking at the international e-Summit in London, Blair pledged that every primary and secondary school in the UK, no matter how small or remote, would have broadband connections by 2006.
The prime minister said that every doctors' surgery, hospital, primary health care trust and health authority, as well as the entire criminal justice system, would be broadband enabled in order to deliver a better service to the public.
"We aim to have all government services online by 2005. Our new strategy will focus on driving up access in key categories in the NHS, education, transport, benefits, tax and criminal justice," he explained.
"Our plan is not only to offer more convenient access to services, but to transform how we organise mainstream delivery."
The government will ensure that public services have the best equipment to deliver broadband, with new computers and interactive content and support for schools.
Downing Street is setting up an internet taskforce within the Department of Trade and Industry to ensure that it is getting value for money.
The taskforce will oversee government procurement to improve the availability of broadband across the UK.
The government has earmarked £1bn for these initiatives. But Anthony Walker, chief executive of the Broadband Stakeholders Group (BSG), pointed out that there is no new money.
"This is the first time that the government has gone around asking departments to work out what they spend on IT. Now they are pulling it all together," he told vnunet.com.
The announcement of the taskforce was welcomed by the BSG, which has been advising the government on its broadband strategy.
It has told the government that, although in many areas broadband will 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 public demand for broadband access, if public services such as libraries, schools and government agencies combine, rather than try to procure broadband individually, they can create enough demand to pull in a supplier. Overseeing this will be a key role for the taskforce."
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