Information collection and dissemination
331. The EU has another potential role which is to
act as a focus for the collection and dissemination of good e-commerce
practice and information relevant to the development and stimulation
of e-commerce. One witness expressed concern that various groups
and consultants which currently publish such information are guided
by self-interest and "cherry pick" their issues.
There are therefore likely to be gaps in what is available. For
example supply chain auctions will probably have a large impact
on jobs and skills in supplier industries but this is not being
332. Witnesses suggested this informational role
should include the following.
- Co-ordinating and clarifying existing information.
- Producing consumer related information such as
quality of service (including response times), payment security,
- Benchmarking e-commerce performance and practice
against international comparators.
333. This informational role may be a temporary one
during the early stages of e-commerce before business and related
institutions have had time to undertake such activities for themselves.
However, one witness thought that the EU would reject the view
that it had a role as an information provider
although there was evidence from Brussels of a belief that the
message about e-commerce should be spread more widely and more
334. We recommend that
the EU perform a valuable role in collecting and disseminating
e-commerce development and practice internationally, especially
in relation to other large trading groups, such as the US and
the Far East. One way to do this would be by promoting e-commerce
twinning arrangements between local communities. We further recommend
that the Government should provide a service to United Kingdom
industry by benchmarking e-commerce practice in other nation states
across the world.
Liaison with the Business
335. The perceived inadequacy of the relationship
between government and the business community in the UK and the
EU has been a recurring theme of the Inquiry. The consultation
processes are said to have incompatibilities and inconsistencies.
In contrast US witnesses have pointed to the strength of this
relationship, described "hand in glove", and its impact
on the development of e-commerce.
336. The EU is said to consult better with the old
economy than the new
and with large companies than SMEs. SANCO seems to set a good
example of consultation through its "stakeholder" meetings
with consumer groups but even then it is not sure that its selection
of invitees is correct.
Commissioner Liikanen travels widely to consult industry but a
more formal and systematic approach might be preferable.
337. The deficiencies were characterised as:
- A lack of openness and transparency.
- Liaison is not always with the right groups (see
- Governments have insufficient information about
what is going on. For example in the UK the DTI, while initiating
a new support structure for SMEs, did not know that at the same
time Freeserve, the UK's largest ISP, had launched a similar
to introduce SMEs to e-commerce.
- In the EU consultation is not always followed
- Industry has a significant role to play in combating
crime and should be consulted specifically on this issue, as it
is in the US.
Consultation over the UK's RIP bill could be described as "too
little, too late". (a point admitted by the Home Office)
- Lack of public involvement in debates where it
would be appropriate.
338. We observed a similar
problem to the Home Office's failure to consult industry before
moving to legislation when we visited Brussels. The Justice and
Home Affairs Directorate-General appeared to be unaccustomed to
the extensive consultation that was a feature of SANCO's working
339. In the UK witnesses believed that the E-Envoy
is important in improving consultation. He has already done this
successfully with the UK Trust Initiative. Exploring the possibility
of an EU e-envoy was suggested by one witness but thought that
he would be "seriously frustrated" if he came into office
at the moment, such was the unpreparedness of the EU for the wave
of co-ordination demands that e-commerce placed on it.
340. It is the view of Lord Brittan
that the mechanisms for consultation are already in place, and
industry should be asked what use it is making of them. However,
he did agree that there is uncertainty as to whether the voice
of the new economy, as well as the old, is being heard.
341. We recommend the
European Commission promote an awareness of the importance of,
and improve the mechanism for, consulting industry, particularly
SMEs and "new economy" entrepreneurs, and consumers
whenever legislation is to be drafted which bears on e-commerce.
We recommend the Government ensure that all departments accept
the need for extensive consultation with industry when legislation
which could affect e-commerce is being considered.
The following areas should be addressed:
openness and transparency, wider ranging involvement including
the general public where appropriate, following up consultation
and involving industry in cybercrime issues.
Culture and Attitudes
342. This report has already
suggested that the successful deployment of e-commerce is to do
with mindsets at least as much as with technology. The history
of the introduction of new technologies has shown that behavioural
and attitudinal factors play a significant role in their success.
343. The culture of an organisation can be summarised
as the portfolio of values, received wisdom and attitudes held
by the employees. New technologies are much more likely to be
successfully deployed when the people involved as developers,
implementers and users have positive attitudes to change.
344. The question is whether EU and United Kingdom
Government departments have cultures which are receptive to new
technologies and the organisational upheavals that go with them.
Several witnesses have suggested that they do not.
Particular problems have been identified.
- An unwillingness to change so-called back office
processes when technology is introduced. For example, new computers
normally work effectively only when there is a readiness to re-design
the processes being automated.
- A lack of commitment to, interest in and knowledge
of new technology.
The EU seems to look upon e-commerce as no more than a small addition
to existing business, not a radical new concept.
- Poor communication through the organisational
hierarchy. There is a need for "the fine words to filter
As another witness stated,
there is an obsession amongst politicians with top
level leadership." The problem is two levels down. Co-ordination
is needed at that level "where the work is really done".
(In this respect, we were struck by the French decision to create
a portal for junior officials to feed in their ideas).
- Pragmatism is lacking.
- A lack of entrepreneurial flair. What one witness
called "social entrepreneurship" is highly relevant
to Government's role in e-commerce especially with regard to the
- Employees are not empowered to take action themselves
or use their initiative.
345. However, it is well recognised that to change
an organisation's culture is a difficult task. Witnesses have
suggested three approaches. The first is to ensure that the use
of the Internet is part of the everyday routine of employees.
This helps to remove psychological barriers such as technophobia.
The second is to reflect the use and deployment of technology
in organisational reward and review systems as the French have
done. Internet literacy must be part of civil servants' appraisal
The third is to target these needs in management development programmes.
Support and grants should be given for education and training
which emphasises new technology and change management.
346. We recommend that
the United Kingdom Government and the EU should take steps to
change organisational culture and attitudes within governmental
departments and within the institutions of the EU. Options
considered should include the following: making Internet use part
of everyday routine, incorporating Internet literacy in reward
and review systemspossibly adopting a system similar to
the French "ideas' portal"targeting Internet
literacy in management development programmes.