FRANCE'S 12 million schoolchildren and their 1 million teachers will each be given a free e-mail address for life, under a deal signed last week by Jack Lang, minister of education, and Claude Bourmaud, chairman of the French post office.
In the first agreement of its kind in the world, La Poste will start allocating addresses to pupils from nursery through to lycee level in Marseilles, Rouen and the Paris region from January 8, the first day of the spring term.
By the end of 2001, 2 million addresses will have been allocated and more than half the school populatio should have their personal mailboxes in 2003.
They will use the format, email@example.com, and pupils will use their confidential e-mail free of charge through their schools' Internet connections. When they leave school, they will keep their addresses but will have to start paying charges.
The addresses, which pupils will access through personal passwords, will be protected by a screening system intended to block any advertising or unsuitable material.
"This is the first time the Internet will be accessible with no strings attached," Mr Lang said.