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Blair misses e-commerce targets

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The UK government has failed to achieve its target of having the worlds best environment for e-commerce by the end of 2002, according to a new report from the office of the e-envoy. Despite the stuttering attempts of the New Labour policy makers the report, 'The Worlds Most Effective Policies for the E-Economy', categorically states that those targets have not been met and it is specifically down to the lack of Governmental and citizen uptake.

The report does claim that the UK is the second best environment for e-commerce which is a bold claim indeed. This, the report argues, is thanks to the government's focus on ICT in education, the way it has allegedly stimulated investment in these industries and the heady competition in the cost of Internet access.

The success factors were measured across a number of benchmarks and on many of these the UK does come out on top. In terms of market readiness, the political environment and the pool of skills the UK is up there with the US, Canada, Sweden and Japan. However, if we're all honest about this these things were probably in place anyway. When it comes to the areas that have needed specific developments and actions in the last few years since Tony Blair set his target (1998) the UK doesn't fair so well.

Infrastructure, including security of that infrastructure, innovation and the cost of access are some of the areas where the UK is usurped by more dedicated governments like those of Sweden and Japan. Broadband and Internet access generally is probably the area where the government has messed things up the most. We've all seen it stumble along with the policies in this area for the past few years - although it has recently started to get things moving. The other big one that the UK is getting wrong is the implementation of eGovernment services (check out this article from IT-Director.com).

Citizen readiness and uptake, penetration of access devices, low barriers to entry and the levels of basic Internet use are the other areas that the UK have struggled with - although it does do well with the 'awareness of benefits' of the Internet.

Interestingly, the areas where the UK government scores highly are the areas that you might describe as fairly elementary, whilst it does badly on the ones that have actually required some positive action. For instance, it does well on the political measure because it has a cross-governmental organisation and has involved the DTI, basically. It also does well on the 'fairness' and education issues too which, in all honesty, has taken some work. But that's probably more to do with the education establishments than the government.

Having looked at the report in some depth, it is difficult to see how the policy makers have had much effect over the past four years - although definite progress has been made recently that's for certain. In fact, the success of the e-commerce industry in the UK has less to do with the government, the DTI and the office of the e-envoy - who were charged with seeing these that these targets were met - and everything to do with the sheer hard work and determination of a few dedicated entrepreneurs and committed businesses. So does that mean heads will roll?

You can read the report in PDF form here.

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