I acknowledge that the primary responsibility rests with the Minister for Education and Science and that a programme for the provision of IT began after the 1997 general election. Over the past two and a half to three years, primary and secondary schools in Northern Ireland have embarked on a radical programme of broadband infrastructure for all the children of Northern Ireland. They are all to be given an e-mail address, hands-on access and perhaps home access. Is it not true that as usual, we are left at the starting gate and the Minister and his Department are trying to catch up on what his predecessor did not do in the four or five years before?
This is a crucial area and the Minister must address it in the period of his tenure of office. Is it not the case that a two-tier society is being created? Better off children in highly resourced schools, from highly resourced homes, will be on-line, have access to broadband and know about the Internet and its capabilities. Children from disadvantaged areas will be left with no resources or facilities. The Government is creating a two-tier society in terms of e-exclusion. Will the Minister agree that a recent survey by Amárach Consulting proved that half A, B, C1 category households are on-line, whereas 20% of C2, D and E category households are on-line? This is already creating a two-tier society in another direction, which indicates another hopeless failure for the Government.
The Minister should have had the national vision of Seán Lemass or Éamon de Valera 60 or 70 years ago, to ensure that every household, no matter what its income or resources, would have continuous on-line access. The approach of the Department is ludicrous, half-baked and completely hopeless in relation to children.