E-Commerce – Digital envoy faces delay

Big Five consultants and software companies have reacted angrily to reports that the government’s first ‘digital envoy’ will not take up the post until early next year.

The post, thought to have been offered to Alex Allan, the prime minister’s former private secretary, will promote the development of e-commerce in the UK.

The appointment became embroiled in controversy earlier this year after the government looked poised to hand the post to David Svendsen, former managing director of the UK arm of Microsoft.

Ministers were forced to drop the idea because it feared a backlash from UK software companies over Microsoft’s dominant postion.

Bill Hutchison, director of KPMG’s e-commerce practice, said: ‘If you’re trying to make the UK the best place to do e-business, having a high profile is very important.’ He also expressed concern the envoy might not start work until next year because the Internet was evolving so quickly.

But a source at a leading UK software company said: ‘Is it a technical, political or liaison role? E-commerce is a global position and won’t be affected by any government.’

A DTI spokesman said a decision about the envoy would be announced shortly.

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