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On a giant screen near you


THE education ministry is to try to reverse Japan's dismal record on connecting schools to the Internet by building a high-tech cable network that will allow pupils to have superfast access to the web.

Japan is lagging far behind the US and Europe with only 57.4 percent of Japan's schools connected to the Internet, according to a recent education ministry survey. Most school computers are kept in the computer room - only 2 per cent are in regular classrooms.

But within the next few years Japan hopes to have thousands of schools linked within a so-called Next Generation Internet Zone, a network that delivers data up to 1,000 times faster than currently.

Each classroom will boast a large super flat screen to replace the blackboard. Students on field trips will be able to take "next generation" mobile phones, which can access the web as well as send and receive videos and sound.

The government envisages all clasrooms across the country gaining high-speed access by 2005 which should at least put the country on a par with the US and Europe.

The private sector in Japan has long worried that a lack of IT education risks making the nation one of the "digital homeless" as the world shifts over to net-based commerce. Representatives from e-businesses and educational institutions have teamed up to promote greater use of the Internet by children at home.

"Government subsidies can give primary and secondary schools computers for Internet access," said a spokesman for the School Communication to Home Co-operation League.

"But if we want to make the Internet really a part of students' and their parents' daily lives, we need to get into homes as well."

One league member, Sega, the company behind the Dreamcast video game machines, has donated 3,000 games consoles to schoolchildren so that they can connect to the Internet at home.

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