UK Prime Minister Tony Blair today announced a new goal - universal access to the internet for everyone by 2005.
Speaking at the Knowledge 2000 conference in London today, Blair said universal net access is vital "if we are not only to avoid social divisions over the new economy but to create a knowledge economy of the future which is for everyone".
Blair predicts that one day "the internet will be as ubiquitous and as normal as electricity is today. We cannot accept a digital divide for business, or for individuals."
Closing the digital divide is a major concern. "Currently half the people in the UK who are online come from the very top social groups. Almost 40 per cent are in a single age band of 15 to 25. We have to make sure people are not excluded from this revolutionary technology," said Blair.
He compared the new knowledge-driven economy with the industrial revolution and said "businesses based on or using IT are at the cutting edge of the new economy".
Technology will be the big topic up for discussion at the European Union summit later this month, said Blair.
The whole emphasis of the Lisbon summit for European Union members will be "how we prepare Europe for today's economy".
"The issues of technology, knowledge, education, skills, electronic commerce, are right at the forefront of how we create that new dynamic European economy which is going to bring prosperity and opportunity to everyone," he said.
He went on to outline his high expectations for Europe. "We are driving through the new technology and the use of the internet and ecommerce, and are making the European economy the best place for this new type of enterprise."
"We are both learning from and exceeding our US colleagues."
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