Gates donation lowers IT barriers

Bill & Melinda's fund gives £2.5 million to get UK poor online

Bill Gates is to dish out some of his millions to the disadvantaged in the UK, Arts Minister Alan Howarth said today.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will give £2.5 million to create 47 hi-tech learning centres in some of the country's poorest areas. The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) centres will get hardware and software to "make sure no one is left out of the technological advances of the 21st century", according to a government statement.

Howarth said: "At the press of a button you can have access to everything from cut price books and CDs to holidays and job opportunities, yet many millions of our fellow citizens have yet to switch on a computer." He said the donation would: "play a major part in bridging the gap between information rich and information poor."

"On behalf of the government I pay tribute to the generosity and vision of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation." The move, organised by Matthew Evans, chairman of the government's library and information commission, compliments existing plans to boost IT use in libraries.

The government has already announced it will plough around half a billion pounds into training librarians, digitising local and community information, and linking libraries to schools. ®

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