Is Paul Murphy taking the Michael?

I am baffled by the announcement that Paul Murphy, the minister for digital inclusion, is establishing a network of digital mentors to help the 17 million Britons who have no experience of the web.

The same Paul Murphy who is chairman of the cross-departmental committee on IT and information security? What could possibly go wrong?

While the thrust of Mr Murphy’s plans is commendable – extending internet skills to the most deprived members of British society – the execution is lacking. Having squadrons of mentors on hand to train people with no home internet access in what they could do if they had internet access seems pointless and cruel.

The Cabinet of which Mr Murphy is a member will likely shell out a second £500 billion in bail-outs (with no end in sight) in the hopes of restoring confidence in shattered City banks and markets – the UK’s supposed financial bread basket.

He could go to and order a Dell netbook with mobile broadband access of 3GB a month for two years.

Now do that 17 million times. The damage? £11.5 billion — or £5.25 billion a year.

Or about 0.5 per cent of what this IT-ignorant government will spend in your taxes on propping up shoddy banks. And that’s without a bulk discount.

I would be much happier seeing my taxes go toward building a true knowledge economy, adressing what is rapidly amounting to electronic disfranchisement and giving 17 million people the chance to google recipes, program, write a blog, twitter, watch youtube, or even really waste their time and petition Downing Street.