– the web for the socially excluded is a Department for Education and Skills Children, Schools and Families project to ‘provide a ‘radically simple’ way of using the Internet’:

The Internet is fast becoming a part of our every day lives, influencing how we work, learn, communicate and even shop. But there are many who still do not or cannot use it because for them the Internet is not accessible, and certainly not encouraging and engaging to use. And so they miss out on the many economic, employment and social opportunities that it brings.

Research and consultation showed that the market was not going to meet the needs of these people coherently and effectively. Therefore, the Department, working with a wide range of stakeholders, undertook to fill the gap. In doing this it hopes to support wider participation in e-learning but also wider use of online information and facilities across the public service, especially through Directgov.

It’s gradually opening up now, following a pilot last year. Predictably, it’s got that kind of ‘reassuringly large buttons’ look which people give sites like this. Unexpectedly, it’s got a downloadable web browser (based on Firefox, I think), and its own hosted email service – although just 30Mb storage space, which embarrassing these days.

But I’m afraid I didn’t get much further: the registration process wants to know all the classic ‘personal questions’ data, which is probably all that protects your bank account from outside interference. When it started asking me for my pet’s name and memorable date, I’m afraid I went elsewhere.