Ambitious plans have been drawn up to provide every pupil in Birmingham with a free or low-cost home computer and internet access by the end of the decade.
The drive aims to close a growing digital divide between the technological haves and have-nots which has left some youngsters at a "learning disadvantage".
Birmingham City Council has launched the first phase of the project with a #5.7 million Government grant to get secondary pupils in the most deprived households online by 2008.
The authority wants to extend provision to all pupils by 2010 – a move likely to have major cost implications with almost half of all homes in the city not currently hooked up to the internet.
Councillor Les Lawrence (Con Northfield), Birmingham’s cabinet member for education, said:"We need to look into the extent to which some communities are facing a challenge in terms of their youngsters’ opportunities for learning given the lack of technology available at home. They are facing a learning disadvantage because of that."
Schoolchildren are increasingly using the internet to help with homework assignments. A study by the Office of National Statistics four years ago found 90 per cent of youngsters aged between 11 and 18 cited school or college work as the main reason they used computers at home.
But while 93 per cent of wealthier households were online last year, only 17 per cent of the lowest income homes were connected, according to another ONS survey.
Secondary schoolchildren targeted in phase one will get free internet access for a year after which it is hoped their parents will recognise the educational benefits and subscribe to online services.
A spokesman for Birmingham City Council said: "In order to sustain this project beyond 2008, and to also reach primary school pupils, a feasibility exercise has been initiated to develop a more wide-reaching programme that will provide universal home access to all our learners by 2010."
UK online, a charity set up to get adults who lack computer skills familiar with the web, said it was crucial the young were targeted. Head of policy Anne Faulkner said: "It is vital young people have equal access to a computer at home. You need to be able to go online for a lot of homework now. That is a stumbling block for some families. The Government needs to think about families, not just the pupils. There is a bit of a myth about computers that it is all about booking cheap holidays. It has become much more important than that. 90 per cent of all jobs require ICT skills."
A taskforce looking at digital exclusion in poor households was launched by the Department for Education and Skills last month.
Schools Minister Jim Knight said: "ICT is revolutionising the way we live our lives and it is essential that we equip young people and schools with the skills to take advantage of these enormous changes."
Digital Birmingham – a drive to make Birmingham "a leading digital city in Europe" – was launched by the city council a year ago.