Adult access model muddled

September 7, 2001

A single national fund is needed for the prime minister's vision of a broadband Britain to become a reality, according to a leading e-learning expert.

The broadband network is considered essential for the production and distribution of e-learning and services to adult learners.

Steve Molyneux, director of the National ICT Research Centre at the University of Wolverhampton, said the plethora of schemes to get adults back into education lacked national focus and coherence, leading to replication and waste of public funds.

"There are a number of initiatives, including the University for Industry, the People's Network and National Grid for Learning, the higher education Metropolitan Area Networks and local authority regional broadbands, but they are not talking to each other strategically," he said.

Professor Molyneux said the private and public sector should work together to build a national broadband network. Finance for this could be channelled through a national infrastructure fund.

The universities were in a perfect position to lead the national project by helping to interconnect the regions, although regulatory changes and new legislation might be needed.

"If content is king, infrastructure is god," Professor Molyneux said. He has submitted a proposal to link the West Midlands via a high-speed network to deliver multimedia services to businesses, universities, colleges and other learning agencies. "There are far too many publicly funded projects across our region that do not seem to make cost-effective use of networks already funded and in place," he added.

"If the West Midlands is to thrive in the new digital economy we require access to broadband services that are not only future-proofed but also economically sustainable, thereby providing best value for money from the public purse."

Professor Molyneux has helped a number of local authorities plan and implement broadband strategies, including the Telford and Wrekin Community Grid, seen by many as the most advanced community network in Europe.

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