Beijing is increasing efforts to help low-income and laid-off citizens gain access to the Internet as a means of spreading Internet use beyond young groups and IT professionals.

With the aim of providing the convenience brought by modern technologies to more common residents, the Beijing Municipal Office of Information intends to provide 1 million families with access to the Internet this year. The municipal government is carrying out a three-year program to disseminate information knowledge to the general public.

In addition to connecting the broadband network to 1 million households, 100,000 residents will be trained with basic computer knowledge and the ability to search the Internet. As many as 100 "digital homelands," or small computer labs for residential communities, will be built and thousands of volunteers with professional knowledge will be encouraged to impart their skills to common residents.

At the moment, only 1.9 million computers in Beijing are connected to the Internet, or 6.4 per cent of the total number of computers linked with the net in the whole country. Youths between 18 and 24 years old currently make up the largest proportion among Beijing netizens. They mainly consist of college students, company technicians and IT professionals. Meanwhile, many disadvantaged people, including retired employees, laid-off workers and citizens living on minimum allowances, do not have access to Internet, said the office's website.

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