Is there anybody out there?

The dotcom bubble was built on the back of expectations that the internet would become used overnight by consumers and businesses in all parts of our lives from buying make-up to booking a theatre ticket. The real-life experience has shown that web surfers are much more choosy about the sites they visit. This raises the question of how widespread its use will be and whether the government initiative is well founded.

It is difficult to answer this question as the web has only become mainstream in the last few years. As with any new technology, be it the railway system or the postal service, it takes time for patterns of behaviour to change and settle down. Accountants are trained to help organisations forecast their financial progress. When it comes to the web this is an all-together different matter. How many of us for example would have thought that text messaging would become so popular? How many of us have invested heavily in our own web sites, only to discover that the volume of traffic is a fraction of that expected?

I believe that the web will impact on almost all parts of our professional lives as it opens up new and more efficient ways of working with customers and suppliers.

Our organisations carry out similar processes many times each day, so it is worth the investment and change to make them web enabled. We talk to customers and suppliers frequently.

This can create a strong demand for online access to information on these relationships.

On the personal front our individual pattern of behaviour is much more varied. We do not generally do the same thing many times a day, at least where the web can play an important part. Hence it takes a lot to make us use the web to complete a one-off tax return, as the justification for investment in time to do this is more restricted.

However we all have personal interests and the web has a huge role to play here. The demand for the 1901 census information when the site went up on the 1 January this year was staggering, with more than a million hits per hour on the first day of operation.

The government should go hell for leather to promote the web in the business world to try and give the UK a worldwide competitive advantage. Consumer activity needs treating with care. √ĘBoring√• products and services are likely to be used infrequently. In contrast of course to something of genuine interest like the census.

  • John Tate is chairman of e-business consultancy Tate Bramald

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