Lottery to make villages high-tech

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The Independent Online
National Lottery funds totalling pounds 300m a year will be invested in high- tech computers for schools, libraries and village communities, under plans to be announced today by Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for National Heritage.

Mrs Bottomley will publish a document proposing that information and communication technology should become the next "good cause" for lottery funding, in addition to arts, sport, heritage and charities, after schemes to mark the millennium have been paid for.

Mrs Bottomley believes those without computer skills will "feel left behind, like those now without telephones" in the next century. Lottery funding will be used to bring computers into everyday life across Britain.

About 20 per cent of lottery proceeds, at present around pounds 300m a year, is being spent on millennium projects, from the millennium centre at Greenwich to village halls.

Mrs Bottomley will today give details of the proposal for dealing with the money after the celebrations for the year 2000 are over. She will propose a range of ideas for investing the money in information and communication technology, including linking remote rural villages to hospitals and schools. It could boost the Tory election campaign by matching Tony Blair's pledges for every school to be linked up to computers under a deal with British Telecom.

Mrs Bottomley will propose that information and communications technology should become a more integral part of school life with lottery funds. Museums and galleries could make more CD-Roms of their collections available, while libraries could become accessed through the Internet.

The consultation paper will seek views on the kind of projects to be funded and will ask whether the Government should allocate a national fund, or create separate funds for Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England.