Derek Wyatt said in a short debate on the Government's strategy for the Internet, that putting PCs into the UK's 23.5 million households for free by 2002 would "cost no more than the Millennium Dome - and be a better use of the cash." It would prepare children, who will soon all be guaranteed an email address at school, for a world in which "the Internet is the key to retooling and reskilling our society".
A typical home PC costs about pounds 1,000, meaning it would take roughly pounds 240m to provide every home with one. The funding for the Dome totals pounds 700m.
Calling for the creation of a new "Ministry of Communications", Mr Wyatt said it should have six "Internet Czars" who would train all ministers, MPs and departments to ensure they can cope with the growing influence of the World Wide Web. The new ministry's brief would include responsibility for telecommunications, broadcast, regulation, software, post offices, village halls and the Internet.
He added: "If this Government sits on its Internet-free hands for much longer over this issue, any chance we have of creating a modern post industrial society will have been lost forever."
Currently, he said, the Internet is a more expensive pursuit than many others: the Media Intelligence Bureau has put the cost, including purchase of the computer, electricity, access and phone bill, at pounds 3.87 per hour - compared with pounds 1.67 for a trip to the movies and less than 12p per hour to watch free to air television.
His comments received backing from members, including Labour's John Maxton, MP for Glasgow Cathcart. He said: "The state of Texas has now taken the decision that they are buying no more textbooks. Every child receives a laptop computer with an access to the Internet, so they get their information in that way. Isn't that the way we should be going forward in education in this country?"Reuse content