Supplementary memorandum by the World
1. What needs to be done to create confidence
and to stimulate e-commerce?
Supplemental to Derek Wyatt's submission, we believe
the Government has achieved significant progress in this regard.
It has built a strong operation in the E-Envoy's office. It has
identified the three main areas are placed sufficient emphasis
on these three areas for them now to be widely recognised and
supported by industry. These three areas are detailed in the [email protected]
In the area of public understanding, I would
score the Government five out of 10 for having achieved the goals
of getting industry, individuals and Government to appreciate
in a timely way, the opportunities available and the action to
be taken. A great deal of ground needs to be made up in getting
institutions to appreciate the need for sheer speed in decision-making
required. The Government is operating significantly faster than
ever before, and in some cases, it is already operating faster
than some people are comfortable with. However, our benchmark
for progress must not be to compare ourselves with how we used
to be but with how other nations are. This point is simply not
made strongly enough. Every nation in the world is racing towards
the goal of becoming a great place for e-businessour goal
is to become the best place for this in the world, and therefore
our progress must be measured against that of other countries.
The Government in its DTI International Benchmarking Studies compares
us to Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and US. The progress
of these countries is, to all intents and purposes, equal with
each other, with perhaps Canada as a whole responding more quickly.
They are all showing strong growth in the use of e-commerce. We
believe that more appropriate comparisons, and benchmarks, should
be drawn with countries such as Australia, Singapore, Malaysia,
Finland, and Sweden. Our close neighbour Ireland is taking innovative
steps against which we could benchmark ourselves. These are mostly
much smaller countries where the population in general has acquired
a culture that is positively disposed to competition with other
nations, change in general, innovation, technology and new ways
In the area of access, we would now score the
Government eight out of 10. This is up from five out of 10 a month
ago, showing tremendous progress. The progress has been achieved
by Gordon Brown's clear expression of views on the telephone access
costs of using the Internet, and the resulting price war which
that triggered. This event was highly significant for the UK,
not simply because it lowered one of the barriers to access at
a stroke, but also because of the huge public interest that was
created for most of last week in the media on the subject.
In the area of trust, I would score the Government
eight out of 10. By way of example, the Prime Minister called
last week for "universal access to the Internet" by
2005. This is significanthowever, it could have been called
for some six months earlier, as industry was advocating.
In addition to these points, we have seen dramatic
shifts in recent months in the development of the enterprise culturea
very important aspect to helping UK citizens to get online. We
would score the Government eight out of 10 in this area.
We have seen good progress on social exclusion.
We would score the Government five out of 10 here. The Government
has appropriately and consistently raised this as an issue. But
it needs to be turned into more action quickly.
We have seen good progress too on creating public
awareness. We would score the Government eight out of 10 in this
area. It cannot have escaped the notice of the Committee that
the Internet is a consistently dominant news item in all media.
This is achieving a significant "buzz" and excitement
among the population and is a welcome recent development.
We believe that the vision for e-commerce as
expressed by the Prime Minister's office, the E-Envoy, the e-Minister,
and Ian McCartney is strong and clear. It's worth noting that
Tony Blair's views on the knowledge economy expressed at Davos
earlier this year were widely regarded as the most clear and progressive
of all nations. Their ability to move sufficiently fast is under
question, and I think they would be the first to acknowledge this.
Simply put, the Government requires help in
speeding up its decision-making processes.
There is one final aspect of getting the UK
online which we have overlooked, and that is creating a national
culture which is positive towards change. Many people in the UK
ask what is in it for them to be on the Internet? Many people
are fearful of using the Internet.
The most powerful tool that the Government has
to change culture in this area is itself. It must act more and
more as role models in the use of the Internet. We must see all
MPs on e-mail, all MPs responding to their constituents on e-mail,
all MPs responding to their e-mail daily.
The clerks to this Committee must be congratulated
on their approachit has been exemplary. All preparations
for this meeting today have been undertaken using e-mail and the
Internet. Responses have been fast. The attitude has been exemplary.
A telling question for us would be perhaps to
what extent members of this Committee use the Internet, how quickly
they respond to e-mails, how comfortable they are using the technology.
A fitting indicator for how well the UK was doing in shifting
its cultural attitudes would be how the members of this Committee
2. Does the European Commission's draft Action
Plan "e-Europe: An Information Society for All" offer
a realistic means of promoting e-commerce in the EU?
In our opinion, the eEurope Action Plan is
an unambitious and uninspiring initiative. It is behind the times.
The EU has lost valuable time. The Bangemann
Report which launched the "Information Society" concept
in the early 1990s was a milestone and ahead of its time. Too
little was done to maintain focus on this area.
The EU Report highlights the right areas: youth
and education, low-cost access, smart cards, risk capital for
SMEs, literacy, the role of the Government online. It is a report
which is unsurprising in all these areas.
The EU report's use of targets is interesting.
Here is our assessment of the strength of the 10 areas in which
they chose to propose them:
European youth and educationthe
targets here are unambitious;
cheaper internet accessthe
targets here are non-committal and vague;
targets here are inadequate;
fast internetthis is not though
through yet, but could be one of the most interesting areasparticularly
the goal of all European students to be able to access online
smart cardsthe targets here
risk capital for SMEsthe targets
here are unambitious;
participation for the disabledthe
targets here are unambitious;
healthcare onlinethe targets
here are positive;
intelligent transportthe targets
here are unambitious; and
Government onlinethe targets
here are inadequately defined, vague and lacking any ambition.
The overarching format and presentation of the
EU report borders on being old-fashioned. It could well have been
in circulation three years agowere it not for the cover
date of March 2000, I would have indeed thought it was a report
coming from the Bangemann Initiative some years ago.
It cites the overarching goal of "bringing
every citizen, home and school, every business and administration
into the digital age and online". This, and the other key
objectives should have been a top level mantra of the EU back
in 1993, not seven years later.
In comparison, the UK Report, [email protected],uk,
is very much ahead of the times. It is significantly more detailed,
more comprehensive and clearer in its goals and aspirations.
3. Will codes of conduct and co-regulation
provide sufficient protection? Is there a case for intervention
by national governments and the EU?
Governments and EU have been encouraged to legislate
with a "light touch" in this area. We support intervention
on this basis. Governments must wait for markets to bring in their
own protectionthat offered today from most companies selling
services and goods over the Internet is good.
4. Do the institutions of national governments,
on the one hand, and the European Commission, the Council of Ministers
and the European Parliament, on the other, function with sufficient
flexibility and coherence to promote the EU's objectives in the
field of e-commerce?
The answer here is a resounding "no".
Neither flexibility or coherence are hallmarks of national Governments,
and certainly not of the EU. Only this week, we have been celebrating
the EU's efforts at defining English chocolate, a process that
has been running for at least 10 years.
As we have said earlier, Government's leadership
in the area is critical to addressing the Number 1 barriera
nation's culture. Governments must show innovation, take risks,
lead by example. These are all areas where the natural sense of
order, openness to public scrutiny and prudence which Governments
display, comes into conflict. We cannot underestimate the scale
of re-engineering required by national governments and the EU
to change the way they work.
The regulation of content for pornography and
libel is extremely difficult. Electronic means of identifying
breaches in the law on the Internet are seen as intrusive and
invasive of privacy. Manual means of policing the Internet are
5. Should existing EU institutions' internal
structures be changed, or new ones created, to improve policy
development and co-ordination?
As we have saidthe behaviour of Governments
and bodies such as the EU is the critical tool in driving national
attitudes to technology and e-commerce. All structures must be
open, transparent, fast moving, and easily available to all citizens
on the Internet through e-mail and the web.
In regards to democracy, the true test of the
Internet will come in this year's US presidential elections, but
we hope to see that it will enhance participation by citizens
in the democratic process, with all the social benefits that this
6. How can structural change be brought about
fast enough to accommodate the growth of e-commerce?
A condition of the performance reviews of all
civil servants should include an appraisal of internet literacy.
A condition of Members of Parliament, or members of commissions
taking up their posts, should be a test of their Internet literacy.
If all documents and transactions between people and their institutions
could be accepted as legal over the Internet, this would make
a huge difference. Digital signatures are the route to achieve
The speed of response of governments to the
development of e-commerce has implications for society in general.
The simplest and most important one, in our view, is the effect
it will have on national economies. Countries which adapt quickly
will achieve higher growth rates, with lower inflation, than those
countries which adapt slowly. We are accelerating into a global
economy where the competitive advantage of nations and trading
zones lies in the degree to which they are able to trade and transact
over the Internet.
The impact of the Internet on society and culture
is extremely poorly understood. Studies in this area have been
fragmented. There is no holistic view of how society and culture
will change due to the effects of the Internet. We have seen seismic
shifts in our own nation in the last yearbut the long-term
impact is not appreciated.