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Tony Blair today commited the government to funding the provision of broadband to every school in the UK by 2006. Speaking at the e-Summit in London, the Prime Minister said that IT was essential to the future of the UK economy.

Blair said that the fundamental challenge is to create a knowledge driven economy that serves the long-term goals of "first class public services and economic prosperity for all". To meet that goal he wants all schools to be wired up for high-speed net access.

"I can announce today that the government will provide funding to deliver broadband connections to every school by 2006," Blair told conference delegates.

"Because education is the number one priority, and because we believe in opportunity for all, every primary and every secondary school in the country will have high speed always-on access to the vast resources of the Internet".

This pledge forms part of the government's ongoing strategy to aggregate public sector demand to help the roll-out of broadband in the UK. And it's not just education that will benefit. The government is also planning to wire up different parts of the criminal justice system and the NHS. Over the next few years the government is investing £6 billion in IT, around £1 billion of which will be spent on networking public services.

Today's goal-setting announcement comes against a backdrop that the UK has failed to reach its target of being the best environment in the world for e-commerce by 2002. That target was set by the Prime Minister in 1998 but a government report published today shows that that the UK came second to the US.

Commenting on missing this target, Blair said: "My message is blunt and simple, we are doing well but not well enough." ®

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