Headlines: November 29th, 1999

The digital divide between the information ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ is to be bridged by a network of free access kiosks. The new network will go some way to allay concern that the benefits of new technology may be shared only by few.Members of the public will be able to get free on-line information about their local area from 3500 touch-screen Internet-driven kiosks in public areas across the country. There will be details about jobs, transport, tourism properties, shopping and local amenities, as well as virtual postcards and message boards. Kiosks will be located in supermarkets, pubs, cyber cafes and other places where the public have ready access.

The kiosks will support joined up government by bringing together local and central services. Although central government content will initially be limited to providing a service for job seekers, there is potential for adding for example tax and benefit information. If plans for a single government portal to access all public services materialise the kiosks could become a major feature of information age government.

The content will be provided by TownPages (www.TownPages.co.uk ) who are working with local councils and businesses to continually develop additional features for the service. Cable & Wireless Communications have been awarded the 6m pound contract to provide and manage the network.