Blair aims to put UK on e-commerce path

But the reorganisation has spread responsibility for meeting the Government’s delivery targets across a number of departments.

The IT skills gap will be tackled by a renamed Department of Education and Skills, under the leadership of Estelle Morris.

Patricia Hewitt, formerly the e-minister, has taken over from Stephen Byers as the secretary of state for Trade and Industry. Working with Hewitt at the DTI will be the new minister for ecommerce and competitiveness, Douglas Alexander.

Alexander, 33, was Labour’s election campaign organiser and is one of New Labour’s fastest-rising stars. But the Scots lawyer has no professional IT or ministerial experience behind him, and was only elected in 1997.

His sister, coincidentally, is e-minister in the Scottish parliament.

eEnvoy in the Cabinet
In a possible blow to joined-up government, the office of the eEnvoy under Andrew Pinder is likely to remain in the Cabinet Office, despite lobbying to have it moved to the DTI, where it could be part of a unified team.

Responsibility for data protection has shifted from the Home Office to the Lord Chancellor’s department.

The Prime Minister’s targets
The Prime Minister wants to meet two targets: making the UK the best country in Europe for ecommerce by 2002, and the best for online government by 2005.

‘The idea that the UK will be the most competitive place in Europe for ecommerce by 2002 is verging on the ridiculous, given the lack of broadband,’ said Ovum Holway analyst Peter Foster.

Blair used his return to Number 10 to emphasise the importance of technology and skills to his second government.

‘We need to start building the economy of the future based on skill and talent and education and the application of technology,’ he said.

Alternative CV: Patricia Hewitt
Title: Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
Assumed role: June 2001
Previous post: Minister for Small Business and Ecommerce at the DTI

1987-89: Policy co-ordinator for Neil Kinnock
1989-94: Deputy director of the Institute for Public Policy Research
1994-97: Director of research for Andersen Consulting
1997: Elected MP for Leicester West


‘The government should focus on investing in IT skills, promoting investment in broadband infrastructure, and rewarding innovation in the industry.’
John Walsh, head of group technology, Halifax

‘Labour’s priority must be the rollout of broadband services, because businesses will need fast, efficient and affordable communications to benefit from the ebusiness revolution.’
Nigel Hickson, head of ebusiness, Confederation of British Industry

‘The big challenge is to make a reality not only electronic service delivery targets, but linking the government departments behind them. That runs right into the heart of improving public service delivery, leveraging IT to improve overall service.’
Philip Virgo, secretary general, Eurim

‘This term is about delivery, particularly in light of the skills crisis.

‘I’d like to see Labour backing the industry’s self-help initiatives, such as the Skills Framework for the Information Age, which is a good example of a public/private partnership.’
John Eary, head of the National Computing Centre skills source consultancy

‘The idea that the UK will be the most competitive place in Europe for ecommerce by 2002 is verging on the ridiculous, given the lack of broadband.’
Peter Foster, analyst, Ovum Holway

‘Labour needs to improve the IT skills base, address the threat of limited business access to broadband, and resist the urge for unnecessary regulation.’
Sally Low, policy adviser, British Chambers of Commerce

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