The People’s Network was launched in 2000. Its main aims were to connect all public libraries to the internet as part of a UK government commitment to provide universal access to the internet by 2005, and to ensure that all citizens were able to benefit from the new opportunities offered by information and communication technologies.
There are two intersecting storylines in this report. One is about the People’s Network as a time-bound programme, with an account of its objectives, ICT service developments and activities, and wide-ranging effects on users, library staff and the public library as an entity. The other is the process of change and transformation triggered by the introduction of the People’s Network, which was brought to the fore as public libraries sought to modernise themselves for the information age of the 21st century.
The public library’s potential contribution to addressing the digital divide was twofold:
To encourage and support the take-up of ICT among those people lacking the knowledge, skills and confidence to use the internet (the digitally excluded); and
To provide a safety net for those sectors of the population excluded by dint of social inequality (the socially excluded) through provision of public access points. Another important policy agenda framing the initiative was the goal of lifelong learning.