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Govt announces boost for e-commerce

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Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

The government has pledged £20 million to establish an e-commerce resource centre on the Internet aimed at helping small businesses thrive in the booming digital economy. Cash is also being set aside to launch a national award to recognise excellence in digital business and develop a private sector-led initiative to deliver top quality advice on doing business electronically. Speaking in the Commons today, Peter Mandelson, the secretary of state for trade and industry, also gave further details about the Electronic Commerce Bill, first announced in the Queen's speech last month, which the government hopes will remove legal barriers to online trading. He said he wanted to generate greater confidence in e-commerce and announced that he would muster international action to keep the Internet free of red tape. His blueprint for a more Net-friendly Britain outlined in the Competitiveness White Paper is already being welcomed by industry but the secretary of state warned that regardless of the support given by government, it is up entrepreneurs and companies to take lead. "It is not enough to create an Internet-friendly business environment," he said. "We need entrepreneurs who will seize and exploit the business opportunities which this opens up." He may be right. Yesterday, a senior executive at Cable and Wireless warned that unless British businesses woke up to the possibilities of e-commerce, domestic companies could be elbowed aside by foreign competitors. And a report by research group Forresters says that the UK is behind its foreign counterparts when it comes to delivering financial services online. "The programme I have announced today is bold, far-reaching and absolutely necessary," said Mandelson. "To succeed in the next century, Britain must become a leading trading nation on the Internet - -which is now the single fastest growing marketplace in the global economy. "That is why the White Paper sets a stretching target - to create in the UK the best environment in the world for electronic trading by 2002," he said. ®

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