UK plc demands more e-business help

The call is included in the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Manifesto for Ebusiness, launched at a national conference in London last week.

The BCC wants urgent action on the skills shortage, widespread access to broadband technology and the scrapping of over-complicated tax and regulatory frameworks.

‘The next government’s priority must be to enable, not disable, ebusiness by providing world-class ebusiness support structures,’ said BCC director general Chris Humphries.

The manifesto also calls on the Government to set up incentives for small businesses to invest in IT and training, and to build public confidence in online trading.

It piles further pressure on e-envoy Andrew Pinder, who was criticised by the Trade and Industry Select Committee as ‘captured, tamed and bureaucratised’ by Whitehall.

‘The government has grandiose plans. Some have been realised, but only in a patchy form. Our concern is for plans to be dealt with in a more systematic way,’ said Committee chairman Martin O’Neill MP.

The call for action is backed by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

‘There needs to be greater co-ordination of the initiatives to address the skills shortage, and more aggressive targets for the rollout of broadband technologies,’ said CBI head of ebusiness Nigel Hickson.

‘In terms of setting the Government agenda, there has not been enough input from small businesses,’ said FSB IT committee vice chairman Peter Scargill.

The Cabinet Office defended the UK’s position, however. ‘The UK is doing well against our European Union [EU] partners, and the figures on internet access and off-peak rate costs are up with the best in the EU,’ said a spokeswoman.

Competing reports put the UK in ninth or 22nd place in the world league of broadband access.

Also published in Computing magazine

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