UK level pegging in international ecommerce stakes

Nothing to be proud of

The UK is holding its own in the ecommerce world, according to the International Benchmarking Study 2001.

It found that the UK's use of e-commerce was on a par with other countries including Sweden, Canada and Germany.

The study found that eight out of ten businesses had a Web site - up from six out of ten last year.

And it revealed that e-commerce is changing the way UK businesses work with many companies saying that it has transformed key processes such as sales and marketing, and logistics and delivery.

Of particular interest to the Government is that 1.9 million small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are online - up from 1.7 million last year.

The Government had originally set a target of 1.5 million SMEs online by 2002.

In a statement e-minister, Douglas Alexander crowed: "The study confirms we are making progress towards our primary aim of making the UK the best place in the world to do e-business. We have set demanding targets and must continue the e-revolution and help UK business get to the future first.

"UK business is feeling the benefits of using technology to improve its communications, efficiency and productivity. The UK continues to be among the world leaders in making more sophisticated use of technology to transform their business processes," he said.

However, the UK's position as an ecommerce "leader" is under threat if broadband services are not made widely available. For hi-speed Net access is regarded by many as key to the UK's future wealth and any delay in accessing this technology could severely hamper the nation's competitiveness.

While the e-minister puffs his chest out at today's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-commissioned report he ignores findings published yesterday by the Communications Management Association (CMA) which found that UK businesses want broadband but can't get it.

John Wright, CMA chairman said: "[It is not] to UK plc's advantage that 'broadband for all' is still just a pipedream here in the UK. In that context Government and Regulator [Oftel] must take their share of the blame. They have failed to deliver the competitive environment and broadband infrastructure that businesses regard as vital to their future well-being.

"The likelihood that the UK will be Europe's number one country for e-business by 2005, supporting a flourishing Information Society, looks increasingly unlikely. While the digital communications revolution continues, we remain poorly served", said Mr Wright.

Indeed, the Government is well aware of the parlous state of broadband in Britain after it was handed an as yet unpublished report compiled by Analysys seen by The Register.

The report concluded that even if all the recommendations of the Government's Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) were implemented then the UK would only be a middle ranking broadband nation by 2005. ®

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