Background: levels of Internet
6. The Government has set as a goal that it
intends to ensure that everyone in the United Kingdom who wants
Internet access should have it by 2005.
According to the most recent figures, 38 per cent of households
in the United Kingdom have Internet access, and 51 per cent of
adults in the United Kingdom have accessed the Internet either
at home, at work, or from a public access point. However, Internet
penetration, while it is increasing constantly, has yet to make
a significant impression in certain sectors, leading to a "digital
divide". Research conducted by the Office for National Statistics
in July 2001 found that 35 per cent of the survey sample indicated
that they would be "very unlikely" to use the Internet
during the next year. A similar proportion of the survey sample
had given this answer when asked in 2000.
7. An analysis of Internet take-up by households
on the basis of their gross income shows that, whereas approximately
70 per cent of households in the highest income decile have home
access to the Internet, fewer than 10 per cent of households in
the lowest two deciles have such access. An analysis by age is
Table 1: Adults who have used the Internet, by age
Source:National Statistics Omnibus Survey, July 2002
A comparison of these figures with figures published in July 2001
shows a rise in Internet take-up for each age group.
8. The Government has recognised that there are barriers of motivation
and skills, as well as access. The UK Online Strategy, set out
in the most recent annual report of UK Online,
lists a number of recommendations and commitments designed to
develop the "knowledge economy" in the United Kingdom;
some of these recommendations address directly the barriers noted
9. We raised issues of Internet access during the course of our
video conference with Reg Alcock, a Member of the Canadian House
of Commons. He agreed that the "digital divide" was
a major concern. He argued, however, that it would be a mistake
to shun technology simply because it was not available to all.
His view was that it would be a matter of time before the familiarity
of younger people today with new communications technologies was
reflected across the age range.
How this Report can add value
10. Throughout the inquiry, we have sought to look ahead
and to try to anticipate the kind the information and communication
environment that will prevail ten years from now. Stuart Hill,
Director of the BT Stepchange programme,
described to us his vision of how a day in the life of an MP might
look in 2012. Some
features of this vision might seem over-imaginative and fantastical
now, although that does not mean it should be dismissed. Ultimately,
we cannot pretend to have any clear idea either of what will be
possible technologically in ten years' time, or of the extent
to which the public will take up such technologies. However, it
remains important that the United Kingdom and its Parliament are
comfortable in maximising use of changing technologies.
11. We have therefore drafted a set of Principles for Information
and Communications Technologies (ICT), which we believe would
be of benefit not only to the House Administration but also to
the public and to outside bodies who deal with Members or with
the House in general. The Committee recommends that the following
set of principles for information and communication technologies
be adopted for the House:
A. The House is committed to the use of ICT to increase
its accessibility and to enable the public, exercising its right
to use whatever medium is convenient, to communicate with Members
and with Committees of the House.
B. The House is committed to using ICT to enhance the professionalism
of Members, their staff and House staff in all aspects of parliamentary
C. The House is committed to the use of ICT to increase
public participation in its work, enabling it to draw on the widest
possible pool of experience, including particularly those who
have traditionally been excluded from the political and parliamentary
D. The House recognises the value of openness and will
use ICT to enable, as far as possible, the public to have access
to its proceedings and papers.
E. The House will develop and share good practice in the
use of ICT by other parliamentary and governmental bodies both
within the United Kingdom and elsewhere, and will work in collaboration
with outside bodies.
These five principles are expanded upon in detail in the rest
of this Report.
12. The Committee recommends that the House report annually
on its progress in implementing these principles.
All information in this paragraph is drawn from the Annual Report
of UK Online, November 2001. Back
Annual Report of UK Online, November 2001. Back
Described by BT as "an initiative established to help government
meet the challenge of creating a modern, integrated public sector
and transform the delivery of public services." Back
See Appendix 1. Back