Millennium Mail

These pages do not constitute policy, but at Ultralab we are working hard with Millennium Central and friends to make the vision of one eMail per pupil (see also Stevenson Report) a reality and this early exploratory paper helped begin the debate about detail. Read it in that light please. Announcement due early 1998.

Summary from (Prof) Stephen Heppell & Richard Millwood, July '97



What will they do?
Parents and Teachers
Some Questions and Answers


The idea of one email per child over the age of 9 is exciting and ambitious.

It immediately flags the "Millennium generation" as participants in the information age rather than simply watchers / consumers. It says much about the UK's commitment to lifelong learning and to the importance of the community, family and the extended family.

It makes a clear statement that as we move into the information age and the new millennium as a nation, we won't be leaving anyone behind.

"Can I visit 'our' mail server please?"

"Greenwich is where my email gets sorted."

The physical location of the main mail server/s should be in the heart of the Greenwich exhibition, with the opportunities for visits and (high-tech) guided tours there together with participative activities that involve children across the nation, adds a dimension of national access that answers some of the questions about the exhibition's location and gives a sense of ownership to the site.

Most of all it will be delightful for children. Get it right and we 'jump start' so much for them and the nation. This will cause a significant boost to the markets for service provision, for computer hardware, etc.; I suspect this document should for now be marked 'confidential'.


One email per child over the age of 9 is a small part of the broader picture that makes up the notional National Grid for Learning. This picture is complex, more so because the scale of the current provision is dwarfed by the consequences of 'one email per child'. The table below helps explain the components:

The layer What it does Examples of who might supply it
Layer 1 The physical network: fibre optic, cable, radio and wire infrastructure that connects up all the users BT, Cable and Wireless, Racal, Nortel, etc., etc.
Layer 2 Service provision: the people you pay to actually connect you to the Internet BT, AoL, Demon, SuperJanet, CCA members, etc., etc.
Layer 3 Content: the images, papers, sounds and other media that flow around the 'grid' for users. Publishers (OUP, OU, etc.), museums, galleries, BBC, BSkyB, small providers, public service, universities, ICL, etc., etc
Layer 4 Tools: the software and applications that enable users to participate (making, creating, using, doing) rather than simply watching looking and choosing. We anticipate that a combination of the service providers (to demonstrate the value added of their service), the content providers ((to demonstrate a value added for their content) and the hardware / software manufacturers will offer various degrees of tool functionality
Layer 5 Hardware and software: the computers (and smart TVs etc.) and software browsers that the user works with to be connected to the Internet RM, Xemplar, ICL, Microsoft, etc., etc.
Layer 6 An identity: the unique record of who you are that is necessary for individuals to be able to send email to you, or for you to use in response to others messages or in originating your own contributions ( Millenium Central (but remember that others see the identity as a key way to tie to individuals into any of the above services - emails are also offered by CyberCafes, service providers, cable operators, BT, everyone!
Layer 7 People!: without active users all the above is simply an expensive mistake. People need to use the physical network, pay for service provision, enjoy content, create with tools, purchase computers and identify with their identities.
Clearly many of these layers overlap in terms of provision; few in the private sector intend to build a market that crosses all layers, but many cross some. Crucially the 'one email per child' concept is a catalyst to all the layers and they will all benefit: once you have your identity you need the other components to be able to use it to its best advantage.


Although they will all have an email identity, users will still need to be connected to the Internet, by a service provider, in order to read their email. They might do this in a variety of ways which although including the home will, crucially, offer local and community access to minimise the split between information have and have nots. The variety of connection opportunities will include:

Obviously social equity issues will not vanish overnight but they will be minimised if we:

  1. encourage some of the community access schemes already proposed elsewhere
  2. we specifically brief interested parties like (for example) MacDonalds, leisure centres, Railtrack, etc. and alert them to the possibilities of public access terminals attracting youngsters to their service / franchises.



Questions to be answered include:

This needs careful thought, the millennium email address needs to be projected as desirable rather than utilitarian or 'basic' (remember that Secondary Modern sounded good to start with).

Server location

Ideally one big visitable server at Greenwich (subject to traffic estimates it might need regional support too) with flashy (and fun) electronic tour (projected 3D images, etc).


This would give us a pilot year with one primary and one secondary group, then ramp up numbers rapidly.

What will they do?

Obviously the simple fact that every child has their own email is interesting but, so what?. The children will need to actually do something and this is the key to the success of the project.

One email per child will enable (and jumpstart) many activities - from Blue Peter and Tomorrow's World projects through to the world of pop or football.

However we will need to develop a small number of indicative projects to encourage others to be imaginative with the opportunities presented:

For example (very much off the top of the head and indicative at best):

These examples would all be 'large scale' events. Engaging, but not small scale and personal; those examples could include:

Parents and teachers

None of this will happen withut a public information campaign including chat shows and afternoon TV! For parents, an intensive TV 'blitz' alongside a leafleting campaign should be effective (leaflets given out through supermarket check-outs?).

Teachers will need supportive literature (and video?), including editable text for creating leaflets to send home to parents from the school. MORE TO ADD HERE YET

Some Questions and Answers

Q How will I find the address of my friend? A A universal address book may not be desirable [debate needed]. However, as with postal addresses your friend will be able to give you an address to use.
Q Will people be able to mail to all the email addresses in one go? If so, can anyone do it (Childline?, HEA?, Penguin?, Blue Peter / BBC?, Britannia Music?, Greenpeace?, political parties?)?

A There is nothing worse that an email address that gets no mail; you feel unloved and unwanted and won't bother to connect again. On the other hand commercial or political exploitation is clearly not acceptable (in loco parentis principle). For this reason the central admin must ensure that some mail items go to everyone, especially those connected with the universal activities (see elsewhere) but not make it an offer to the world at large (Steering group needed? Board of Governors?). It might work this way:

Science Museum want to contact all children of 11 to collect data on an eclipse, or to tell them of a new exhibition (very different examples). They would request the general circulation of this mail and, if it met certain criteria [debate needed], it would be sent to all 11 year olds. The database of identities would never be released into the public or commercial domains (as with all phone numbers).

Q There's no time for all this in schools and what about the three Rs? A Email currently relies on the ability to read and write and we hope this will be a great incentive. The administration is deliberately being implemented through the Post Offices and we hope helps extend learning into the community and the home in a way that complements school learning and the curriculum. Some of the national projects have a direct curriculum focus.
Q I've received racist emails, who do I tell? A The MilliMail Central Admin people and / or your service provider (eg Demon, CompuServe or AOL)
Q As a parent my religious principles mean that I only want my children to read the bible and school text books. What can I do about the email? A Up to 16 you have the right to ask for no identity for your children, there is no bespoke filtering service available [but could be - debate needed]
Q I want to read everything my children get through their email. A Then you must agree appropriate behaviour with your own children, as you do with written mail and phone calls now. Children have access to much communication technology outside of the home (eg phone boxes) and each family have their own acceptable behaviours.
Q What if someone inappropriate contacts my child by email? A As with inappropriate contact in other areas (for example at a bus stop, or on the phone) the common sense advice you offer as parent still applies - don't believe everything you hear, tell an adult if you are concerned, don't arrange to meet without an adult present, etc. Parents' common sense is still important. (see section on parental training)
Q I have a large extended family all round the world and we are all a bit out of touch, can I contact them with MilliMail? Does it cost more to contact Karachi than Kingston? A You can contact them with MilliMail. Sending a letter to anywhere costs nothing, although being connected to the Internet may cost you in some circumstances (if you are connected via your own phone line the phone service will charge you at local call rates for example).
Q I've lost my email password. A Go to the Post Office
Q How does email work? A See our email diagram!