Headlines: April 29th, 1999

User resistance to information and communication technology is one of the main barriers to changing the way public services conduct business. A weakness in the target of delivering 25% of public services by 2002 is that people may prefer traditional methods as the Peoples’ Panel survey revealed. The problem is not unique to public services. It is predicted that by the end of 2000 about 90% of people will have contact with ICT at work and new skills will be needed to make best use of the technology.

Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett has a major responsibility for promoting the development of ICT skills and he has welcomed the BBC Webwise campaign which will be part of Adult Learners’ Week starting on 17 May 1999. Webwise will help people to use ICT and gain confidence. Webwise will also support the National Grid for Learning which provides access to ICT and facilities for acquiring skills.

A significant factor which is also changing attitudes and promoting Internet use is free access provided by retailers. The entry of Dixons and Tesco into the market gave a significant boost to Internet usage. The announcement by WH Smith that they will now provide free access will encourage some of their 7.5 million customers to click the start button.