The government is under pressure to help kick-start the adoption of advanced internet and telecoms services amid mounting evidence that the UK is falling behind its competitors.
London mayor Ken Livingstone added his voice to the debate when he warned that a lack of availability of high-speed internet access ‘will have serious implications for the future competitiveness of UK industry’ unless action is taken.
Livingstone said a report by his ‘e-envoy’ Colin Jenkins shows the position of London and the rest of the UK is under threat because of the slow deployment of broadband technology, along with other factors such as the IT skills shortage. He called for the government to get involved in partnership funding projects to support the broadband infrastructure and for more training initiatives.
Livingstone’s comments followed a spate of reports from technology analysts warning that the UK is lagging behind other European nations, the US and Asia in the availability of broadband access.
NetValue, which measures internet usage, placed the UK 10th in a list of 11 countries surveyed for broadband penetration, ahead only of China.
Research firm Jupiter MMXI predicted slow take-up of broadband across Europe, and expects the UK to trail Germany and the Nordic countries.
The rate of roll-out of high-speed services was also criticised recently by the Trade and Industry Committee, which said the government’s aim of making the UK a leading e-business hub was under threat because of delays.
And to compound the government’s embarrassment, its own e-credentials were called into question by a study from consultancy Accenture.
When the company ranked 22 countries according to the effectiveness of their e-government initiatives, the UK had slipped from sixth to eighth compared to its last annual survey.
Accenture rated Canada, the US and Singapore as the ‘innovative leaders’ in their efforts to give businesses and individuals online access to a wide range of government functions.
The three countries were praised for setting targets and timetables for adoption of e-government, and for using state-of-the-art applications in areas such as customer relationship management.