UK ONLINE REVIEWED: THE FIRST ANNUAL REPORT
OF THE E-MINISTER AND E-ENVOY
(A) It is not a promising symptom of the attitude
of Government to the digital divide that such a key document as
the e-Minister and e-Envoy's first Annual Report should not have
been made more readily available in paper form as well as electronically.
We recommend that future annual reports be made available in paper,
when the House is sitting (paragraph 8).
The Government accepts that future UK Online Annual
Reports are of sufficient general interest to warrant publication
in hard-copy paper form, as well as electronically. The Government
also accepts that future Annual Reports should be published when
the House is sitting.
It should be noted that a summary of the Annual Report
2000, accompanied with a full version on CD-ROM, was widely distributed.
In addition, as is now made clear on the OeE website, full paper
copies of the report can be requested from the Office of the e-Envoy.
A downloadable version of the full report, in Microsoft Word format,
is also available on the Office of the e-Envoy website.
Need for analysis
(b)A major effort to bring the reality of the
promise of public and private e-business within and outside Government
is now underway. We commend to other departmental committees the
65 commitments in the September 2000 Report as a rich seam, which
we suspect would benefit from further scrutiny.
(c)It is only too evident that what we feared
has come to pass; that the e-Envoy has been absorbed into the
machinery of Whitehall and is now an adjunct of the e-Minister.
We are concerned at this mini-empire growing up in the shadow
of the e-Envoy. The assurances given in October 1999 in response
to our July 1999 Report that the e-Envoy would not be responsible
for implementation seem to have been overlooked. The promotion
of UK electronic business seems to have fallen by the wayside.
The broad and critical view taken in the 1999 PIU Report has been
replaced by the language of Whitehall. We greatly fear that the
original concept of the e-Envoy has been captured, tamed and bureaucratised
into an e-official planted in an e-office, no doubt full of activity
but caught between being an agency of implementation and a powerhouse
of ideas. It is not too late for a rethink of the scale and nature
of the Office, nor of the role of the e-Envoy (paragraphs 7 and
Not accepted. Recommendation 14.2 of the PIU's firstname.lastname@example.org
report stated that: "The Government should appoint an 'e-envoy'
with a wider remit than originally proposed, covering both e-commerce
and the IT elements of the Modernising Government White Paper.
The e-envoy should be a high-level champion for Information Age
issues across Government, based in the Cabinet Office with a direct
link to the Prime Minister." The report also recommended
that the e-Envoy "should have a direct link to the Prime
Minister, whilst reporting on a day-to-day basis through the e-Minister
and the Minister for e-Government as appropriate."
This is, and will continue to be, the position of
the e-Envoy within Whitehall.
The report went on to identify five key themes that
should provide the focus for the work of the e-envoy:
"- e-business - galvanising UK business,
at all levels, to recognise the opportunities and threats implicit
in e-commerce. A particular focus on under-performing small and
micro enterprises would be essential;
- e-Government - providing strategic input to the
development of the Information Age Government agenda set out in
the Modernising Government White Paper. Developing synergies between
private and public sectors, including the role of Government as
an exemplar of the use of e-commerce through its own procurement
and as the deliverer of e-Government services at national, regional
and local level;
- promoting the UK strategy abroad - providing the
consistent drive in taking forward the UK's Information Age objectives
in international fora;
- e-inclusion - maintaining the push to ensure that
the benefits of e-commerce and e-Government are available to all
sections of society, including those with disabilities and the
- programme management - ensuring effective co-ordination
of Government activities, including implementation of the full
programme of actions recommended by this Report; monitoring progress
against the overall objectives for e-commerce and e-Government,
keeping strategies under regular and probing review in the light
of developments (international, technological, commercial and
legal); and identifying key medium-term strategic challenges for
the Government arising from new information and communication
The e-Envoy and his Office continue to be guided
by these five main themes. In particular, we do not accept that
"promotion of electronic business seems to have fallen by
the way side". Since the first e-Envoy was appointed, the
Government has committed over £100 million to help businesses
get engaged in and reap the benefits from e-business. The Office
of the e-Envoy played a key role in building the case for this
investment and continues to be closely involved in policy development
Nor do we accept that the Office of the e-Envoy is
"caught between being an agency of implementation and a powerhouse
of ideas." It is the latter. Undertaking that role effectively
can involve a limited role as an implementer of cross-Government
technical projects where these are of key strategic importance
and where no other immediate base exists, such as the UK online
Citizen Portal and the Government Gateway. However, in such cases
there will be a clear 'exit strategy' once projects are fully
operational. This will be applied to the UK online Citizen Portal,
the Knowledge Network and the Government Gateway, which will be
moved into separate units.
As of 1 July, operational responsibility for the
UK Online Citizen Portal, the Government Gateway and the Knowledge
Network rests within a discrete e-Delivery Unit. We will shortly
advertise for a Chief Executive for this Unit, to report directly
to the e-Envoy.
(d) Although nobody could describe the intended
output of secondary legislation arising from section 8 of the
Electronic Communications Act as dramatic in its scale or scope,
there are a number of proposals out for consultation which if
they come to fruition could have genuinely beneficial effects.
We recommend that departments which have not identified any need
for secondary legislation to allow for electronic signatures be
asked for evidence of the nature of their inquiries, that the
target for completing the orders set out in the May 2000 written
answer be revised to 100% achievement, and that a second tranche
of orders be brought forward as soon as possible (paragraphs 13
Not accepted. The Government notes the Committee's
comments about the real significance of some of the issues (such
as electronic conveyancing, electronic authentication of records
for legal purposes and electronic communications between companies
and shareholders) included in the list of 11 possible items of
secondary legislation published in the written answer of 24 May
2000; and the genuinely beneficial effects of some of the proposals
currently out for consultation, including further proposals identified
since the written answer.
The Government is continuing to add to the list,
as additional potential orders under section 8 of the Electronic
Communications Act are identified by departments in the course
of the further development of their e-business strategies. Of
the 40,000-odd statutory references to writing, signature and
similar terms, the Government intends to give priority to updating
those for which electronic communication or storage is an important
element in delivering departments' e-business strategies; those
for which such updating would help to remove barriers to e-commerce;
or where it would facilitate departments' normal business processes.
Examples of subjects of orders proposed or made to
achieve these aims are respectively electronic conveyancing; the
conclusion of a regulated credit agreement by electronic means;
and electronic communication between DTLR and local authorities
on housing revenue account subsidies, as facilitated by The Local
Government and Housing Act 1989 (Electronic Communications) (England)
In this context the Government does not accept that
it would be justifiable for departments to be asked for evidence
of the nature of their inquiries into the need for secondary legislation
to allow for electronic signatures. The Government does not regard
the making of section 8 orders as an end in itself, but a means
to the end of making particular services available electronically
or removing specific barriers to electronic commerce. They become
time-critical only at the point when they are on the critical
path for a wider business process change.
The Government would not consider it realistic to
revise the target for passage of the measures referred to in the
May 2000 written answer to 100% achievement by the end of 2001.
At least three of the orders referred to in the May 2000 written
answer (the order to facilitate electronic conveyancing, and the
amendment of the Documentary Evidence Acts 1868 to 1895 and of
the Statutory Instruments Act 1946 and associated Regulations)
are intended to be made by the affirmative resolution procedure.
It is unlikely that any of these three orders, which deal with
subjects involving difficult technical, procedural and legal issues,
will be laid before Parliament before the summer recess. Given
the pressures on Parliamentary time, all three orders could not
be guaranteed to complete the required Parliamentary procedures
and be made by the end of 2001.
The Government therefore proposes to retain the target
of the passage of 8 orders (equivalent to 70% of the eleven measures
referred to in the May 2000 written answer) by the end of 2001.
Further orders in addition to those listed in the May 2000 written
answer are likely to be made in 2001. The Office of the e-Envoy
will continue to pursue and monitor progress on the delivery of
section 8 orders across Government, but departments' evolving
e-business strategies may affect the priority and hence the timing
of the particular orders specified in the written answer of May
It is not proposed to divert departments' resources
at this stage to identifying a "second tranche" of orders.
As the Committee has noted, there have been further proposals
in the past few months; and still more will be identified, as
stated above, in the further development of departments' e-business
strategies. The Government has already accepted in January 2000
the Committee's recommendation that, having identified immediate
priorities, departments publish within two years details of all
the outdated statutory definitions of words such as "writing"
and "signature" they intend to update to take account
of new information and communications technologies and timetables
Trusted Service Providers and tScheme
(e) Much Parliamentary time has been devoted to
the question of regulation of approvals for Trusted Service Providers.
We would welcome a detailed progress report on the tScheme in
response to this Report.
Accepted. The Office of the e-Envoy and the Department
of Trade and Industry will be happy to produce such a report by
the autumn of this year.
(f) There is a general interest in helping ensure
that the internet is both secure from attack and not used for
criminal purposes. We welcome continuing reporting of progress
through the monthly implementation reports, and recommend that
the next Annual Report reveal practical examples of the benefits
of the changes introduced in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers
Act (paragraph 17)
Accepted. The Government welcomes the Committee's
recognition of the importance of seeking to help ensure that the
Internet is secure and not used for criminal purposes. As the
Committee knows, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
(RIPA) is an important element of the Government's approach to
this. We will continue to report on the implementation of RIPA's
provisions. And in the next Annual Report, we will, so far as
is compatible with the terms of the Act itself and the continued
effectiveness of the investigative techniques it regulates, seek
to outline the benefits that RIPA has brought about.
(g) The success of the new regulatory structure
proposed in the Communications White Paper will to a great measure
be judged by the extent to which it is able to ensure a more transparent
and competitive electronic market place. Ministers and the regulator
must continue to concentrate on creating the right infrastructure
and on opening up competition in a number of areas so that other
e-initiatives do not run into the roadblock of most people finding
the electronic world inaccessible on terms they can afford and
under conditions which suit them (paragraphs 18 and 24).
Not accepted. Whilst Government has a role to play
in facilitating affordable access to infrastructure, the regulator
must concentrate on creating the right market structure within
which a range of choices become available in response to demand.
One of the aims of the Communications White Paper was 'to make
the UK home to the most dynamic and competitive communications
and media market in the world' (paragraph 1.2.1). Clearly regulation
to enable effective competition is a vital step in achieving that
aim. Oftel has done a good job in sometimes difficult circumstances
in enabling competition in all areas of the market. This resulted
in substantial price falls for basic Internet access and more
advanced services. OFCOM will have increased powers to continue
this good work. We shall bring forward further details at the
earliest opportunity to give effect to White Paper proposals.
(h) The evidence does not suggest that regulation
is holding back e-commerce. There is however a strong perception
that it could; this requires dispelling. We trust that some positive
effort will indeed be devoted to that end, as recommended by the
Better Regulation Task Force (paragraph 28).
Accepted. The Government response to the Better Regulation
Task Force report "Regulating Cyberspace - Better Regulation
for e-Commerce" has been published (http://www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/regulation/TaskForce/2001/ecommerceResponse.htm).
The Government recognises the need to address confusion amongst
businesses about how regulation applies to them and accepts the
Task Force's key recommendation on providing guidance to business
about the domestic and international regulatory framework for
As stated in the response to the Better Regulation
Task Force report, the Government is committed to building on
what has already been achieved to ensure that information, guidance
and advice on the regulatory framework is clear and accessible.
The UK online for business programme provides businesses with
impartial and jargon-free advice. This advice is delivered face-to-face
through a network of local advisers, on the telephone via a national
contact centre and via the Small Business Service businesslink
The Government's aim is for the businesslink website
to become a focal point for the delivery of Government advice
to small and medium sized businesses. The businesslink website
will provide access to the best guidance and advice, including
on regulatory issues, in the easiest format, and will link to
other Government Departments' sites. The advice provided via the
website will be developed and expanded on an on-going basis.
An advertising and mailing campaign was carried out
in November 2000, to raise awareness of the UK online for business
programme following rebranding of the service. The Government
is looking to further increase business use of the service through
a renewed marketing campaign which started in February this year.
The Task Force report pointed out that rules governing
jurisdiction and choice of law for international consumer contract
disputes for internet transactions were of particular concern
to businesses, especially smaller ones, and recommended that Government
should provide clear and simple advice on these issues. The Government
accepted this recommendation and has committed to provide advice
on the provisions of the Brussels Convention (on jurisdiction)
and the Rome Convention (on applicable law) and the position with
non-EU countries . This guidance is expected to be published this
Summer. The European Community Regulation on jurisdiction will
replace the Brussels Convention and will come into force in March
2002. The Government will produce guidance on the new rules by
(i) We record the abolition of betting tax as
one of the first fiscal casualties of electronic commerce. We
look to the next Annual Report to give a full critical commentary
on the developments in the taxation policy area (paragraphs 32
Paragraph 32: Not accepted. Following consultation
the Government replaced General Betting Duty with a Gross Profits
Tax to maintain a thriving bookmaking and racing industry in the
UK in response to the growth in offshore betting. The Government
is confident that this reform will help provide the right competitive
environment for the UK betting industry to take advantage of e-commerce
opportunities and will contribute to progress towards the target
of making the UK the best place in the world to do e-commerce.
Paragraph 33: Accepted. The Government continues
to play a leading role in identifying and implementing technological
solutions for VAT on e-commerce. In the OECD, the UK is in the
lead on a task group to identify a framework under which a tax
collection mechanism could account for consumption taxes, thus
easing the burdens on business and providing assurance for the
collection of VAT.
In the EU, negotiations continue to find a solution
that creates a level playing field for VAT, eases the burdens
on business and can be successfully applied in an international
The next UK Online Annual report will provide an
update on the taxation developments relevant to e-commerce.
(j) We are not established to conduct a detailed
assessment of the reality behind the fulfillment of targets across
government departments, nor to take in the flood of real or electronic
documents on e-government. There is still a slight whiff of unreality
in the electronic government agenda. We had hoped that the e-Envoy
as originally envisaged might provide an objective analysis of
such an issue, from outside the machinery of Government. It is
a task which some element of the select committee system may feel
obliged to take up in the new Parliament (paragraph 38).
Not accepted. The Government does not accept that
there is a whiff of unreality about the e-government agenda. Substantial
progress has already been made towards the target of putting all
services online by 2005, with significant additional investment
through the knowledge economy review which formed part of the
2000 Spending Review and through the Capital Modernisation Fund
and Invest to Save Budget.
Progress towards the 2005 target is measured in terms
of the proportion of key services which are fully electronically
enabled. Many of the services now available are primarily about
making information available in a more accessible way and one
which is better targeted on the needs of service users. Already
though, there are a number of significant transactional services,
and the proportion of services which are fully transactional will
increase steadily towards 2005.
The latest findings, based on the autumn 2000 survey
of departments, show that for the whole of government there are
521 services to the citizen or business. For electronic delivery
of these services:
218 services are enabled now (42%)
384 services will be enabled by 2002 (73%)
517 services will be enabled by 2005(>99%)
The government has also developed two major projects
which bring together its online services. The UK online Citizen
Portal which went live in December 2000 not only provides a single
access point to over a thousand government websites, but is also
showing the way forward by organising key services in 'life episodes'
rather than by government organisation. The Government Gateway
which went live in January 2001 provides a secure platform for
internet transactions which will eventually support a wide range
of transactional services - the first three were launched earlier
All Government departments have produced e-business
strategies which have been published on the Internet (www.e-envoy.gov.uk/estrats.htm)
They set out how departments intend to deliver services electronically
and demonstrate the increasing importance of e-government in transforming
the quality of services offered to individuals and to businesses.
The Office of the e-Envoy led a thorough review of
the strategies, the outcome of which was published on 29 March
2001 (copies were placed in the House Library and are available
on the Internet at www.e-envoy.gov.uk/eval2000.htm).
The Office of the e-Envoy also publishes a six monthly
report which monitors the number of services that are enabled
for electronic transactions (these are available on the Internet
at http://www.e-envoy.gov.uk/esd.htm). Progress towards the 2005
target is measured using key services (and other areas of government
business which interact with citizens or businesses), which had
been enabled for electronic transactions so as to provide an accurate
response. The monitoring regime is aligned with Treasury's public
service agreements (PSAs) and service delivery agreements (SDAs)
to ensure that the electronic service delivery capability targets
were viewed in a wider context which also covered encouraging
take-up and quality of service.
(K) Given the UK's general commitment to the e-Europe
process, there would be value in reporting annually on the achievement
at national level of those e-Europe targets not already directly
reflected in the UK's own targets (paragraph 42).
Accepted. The Government proposes to develop further
the information on the eEurope Action Plan on the Department of
Trade and Industry's website. This will summarise all UK national
achievements corresponding to the activities allocated by the
Action Plan to the Member States. Cross references would be given
to further details in the UK Online report and elsewhere as appropriate.
(L) At the end of the day we question what purpose
is served in pumping out all these e-targets, most of which are
only capable of being met as a result of national policies and
practices, or in identifying 'priorities' if they change with
each Presidency and represent no more than a dish of the day from
an ever longer a la carte menu. It is difficult not to be sceptical
about these rather grandiose and flabby plans. They could however
offer the opportunity for a member state to assess its own plans
against those produced elsewhere. Ideally, somebody should be
asking Governments why something can be done in one member state
but not in another. National Parliaments are ideally placed to
do this. If the e-Europe initiative is not seized upon by Parliaments
it will become another initiative doomed to live alongside the
bones of other long discarded Declarations. We can but hope that
something emerges from Stockholm to give us hope (paragraphs 47
Accepted. The eEurope Action Plan is more than just
a list of objectives which Member States would be addressing anyway.
It is an overarching strategy which aims to bring national activity
alongside that of the Commission and the private sector, improve
coherence, and inject a sense of urgency. The Lisbon Summit expected
that it would accelerate the benefits of economic growth by stimulating
information society initiatives across the Union. The Government
agrees that risks attach to the management of such a wide ranging
plan, but draws the Committee's attention to the fact that it
clearly allocates targets and responsibilities for meeting them,
and all within a short period up to end 2002.
The Government agrees that the Action Plan must stimulate
comparisons between achievements in different parts of the Union.
Done properly, the monitoring and benchmarking of eEurope activity
will produce the basis for the exchange of experience and peer
pressure that is at the heart of the Lisbon Summit's emphasis
on the "open method of coordination". The Government
welcomes the Committee's interest and agrees that national parliaments
should be among the key forums where the results should be considered.
The Government shares the Committee's concern that
the success of the eEurope Action Plan could be deflected by the
frequent introduction of new activities or changed priorities.
Although the Plan as such has not changed, the Stockholm European
Council produced commitment to pursue a number of horizontal priorities
on top of the Plan (eg "a supportive policy framework for
third-generation mobile communications"; "a comprehensive
strategy on security of electronic networks"). The Government
will continue to encourage the Member States, the Commission and
private sector to focus on achieving the fundamental objectives
set out in the eEurope Action Plan. However, it will also take
a full part in the development of other coherent policies on information
society issues in the Union as they arise, with a view to securing
their correct treatment in any successor to the eEurope Action
Digital Divide: Programmes
(m) Two years after the announcement that 100,000
low income families would be receiving and paying for recycled
computers, it seems that only a third of that number have received
them, within the last few months (paragraph 56).
Accepted. Computers within Reach has been slow to
get off the ground, but it is a pilot scheme and it was always
intended that each phase would learn the lessons from previous
phases. The target for the first phase was 35,000 computers. This
has not yet been met but DFES are working with the contractors
to resolve difficulties particularly over the supply of computers.
(n)If the Wired Up Communities programme is to
prove of any value it can only be if the level of expenditure
and effort needed to produce worthwhile results stands any chance
of being replicated on a national scale (paragraph 57).
Accepted. Wired up Communities, although a pilot,
is a major initiative - a £10 million programme - with nearly
14,000 homes in seven communities across England, forming one
of the country's largest pilot programmes to explore the effect
computers have on people's lives.
It has always been intended that the pilots should
be fully evaluated before deciding whether or not to roll the
initiative out more widely. Evaluation results are due in March
2002 and once these are available we will consider how best to
take this forward.
As the report indicates, pilots only make sense where
they are trialled on the basis that there will be further funding
should the pilots prove successful. That is indeed the case here.
At the UK Internet Summit on 11 October 2000, the Chancellor of
the Exchequer said "A high unemployed area (Liverpool) will
therefore be the first to benefit from the most modern of technology,
with not just some, but everyone, equipped for the challenges
of the future. This is only the first of seven pilots in a project
that if successful we will attempt to extend to many more areas
which need it. The principle behind it - that no-one should be
excluded from the benefits of the IT revolution, and that the
digital divide can be bridged".
A further £5m has also been allocated to be
spent on schools in the Wired Up Communities pilots through the
National e-Learning Foundation so that the notion of a truly "connected
community" can be evaluated.
Digital Divide: General
(o) Some programmes seem to be designed to make
a real difference. Others are evidently a drop in the ocean; they
are either pilots which seek to prove that further expenditure
is justified, or futile gestures. These initiatives and centres
and development programmes do not amount to a strategy to overcome
the digital divide between old and young, rich and poor, urban
and rural. In the context of the scale of the digital divide,
they look like woefully inadequate gestures. Millions of people
are excluded, not the thousands reached so far by these initiatives.
We hope that the e-Envoy will be given time to look up from the
world of e-Whitehall and take a holistic view of the divide. His
first priority must be to bridge that gap with a rounded strategy,
based on the experience gained of the rather disparate initiatives
of the past few years. We look forward to its presentation in
the next Annual Report (paragraphs 55 and 62).
Not accepted. The Government has a clear commitment
to ensuring that everyone who wants it will have access to the
internet by 2005. The UK Online Report outlines a coherent programme
of action to ensure that we meet this goal.
Both Computers within Reach and Wired up Computers
address directly the PAT 15 report finding that "the costs
of hardware, software and telecommunications services are seen
as significant barrier to ICT uptake by those living in deprived
DFES recognises the importance of having a strong
research base both to understand the difference made by activities
that address the digital divide and to inform future policy development.
The evaluation of UK online centres and Wired Up Communities are
an important part of this approach.
DFES's recently published report into ICT Access
and Use provides valuable information on the relative views of
and access to ICT across different social groupings. This research
will continue and will help to provide an annual benchmark from
which to monitor the overall effectiveness of initiatives. DFES
is also making use of the ICT data being collated by other research
bodies such as the ONS.
A separate study is tracking the impact of the acquisition
of ICT skills on peoples lives over a three year period. DFES
has also recently established the ICT Research Centre to develop
and take forward our future research agenda into ICT access and
learning, including deprived areas.
The Department has also initiated activity to inform
our activities to support specific groups. For example, three
research projects are being commissioned to explore issues around
the access to, and attitudes towards, ICT by black and ethnic
minority groups. We are also working with ability.net to ensure
UK online centres understand and can meet the needs of their disabled
All this activity will build further upon the research
undertaken to support the PAT 15 report Closing the Digital Divide
and provides a valuable baseline against which to set policies
The PAT 15 report Closing the Digital Divide set
a wide cross-government agenda making recommendations to alleviate
the cost of access for those on the lowest incomes, to improve
the promotion of the benefits of new technology at the local level,
and to encourage more engaging content.
Many significant initiatives are underway which support
the recommendations identified in the PAT 15 report. For example,
over 1,250 UK online learning centres are now open providing local
access to the Internet and e-mail. By the end of 2002 there will
be around 6,000 UK online centres providing local access to ICT
through community and voluntary organisations as well as existing
facilities in colleges and libraries. UK online centres are being
targeted at the 2000 most deprived local authority wards and we
expect good coverage in the great majority of these
In addition centres are being established in rural
areas with significant deprivation and/or transport problems,
for example using mobile facilities and in church/village halls.
UK online centres will act as stepping stones to
learndirect provision by providing basic ICT skills, and the confidence
and motivation to help individuals to progress to further learning.
Some UK online centres will also be learndirect centres or access
points and offer learndirect provision on site. In addition, all
UK online centres have to demonstrate clear links to other local
ICT provision such as learndirect centres, schools, colleges and
Education and Skills
(p) There is an impressive array of educational
initiatives and efforts designed to get on top of the ICT training
agenda. There remains a massive task. Some of the initiatives
would repay closer study than we have given them, perhaps by other
departmental select committees; being able to teach Japanese by
ICT, for example, may be useful but cannot be at the centre of
the nation's educational requirements. We suspect that it is proving
harder to reach older people. It would be useful to have some
idea of measurable output in the next Annual Report, and to have
a European perspective on the UK level of achievement, at all
stages of lifelong learning (paragraph 66).
Accepted. The Department for Education and Employment
is indeed implementing a wide range of initiatives in order to
address the ICT Skills agenda. This is a dynamic and growing area
that requires a great deal of flexibility and innovation if we
are to meet the needs of the Knowledge Economy.
The recent White Paper "Opportunity for All
in a world of change", jointly published between DFES and
the DTI, illustrates some of these new measures which are being
undertaken in this area - such as the New Technology Institutes
which aim to train up to 10,000 people per year from technician
3 level and above to degree level in the use and application of
ICT and advanced technologies.
Other relevant measures include the Centres for Vocational
Excellence, the Cybrarian project and the New Deal scheme whereby
we will be getting 5,000 unemployed individuals into work in the
ICT professions over the next three years.
The comment on teaching Japanese seems to show a
misunderstanding of the aims of this initiative. Pilots in the
use of ICT to deliver courses at Key Stage 3 in Maths, Latin and
Japanese have augmented and enhanced the drive to improve standards
and to see how ICT could widen access to minority subjects.
These projects support the Governments wider Key
Stage 3 strategy and complement a range of other measures to develop
educational ICT, all of which also widen access. Pilot projects
in the use of digital TV for education and GridClub for 7-11 year
olds support independent learners and out of school provision.
Projects such as Notschool net aim to provide ICT support for
learning by excluded pupils and the development of an inclusion
site on the NGfL makes learning resources available to meet a
wide range of special needs.
We are well aware of need to reach more older people,
and have been successful in increasing participation among this
group, for example around 135,000 people over 50 took at least
one ICT Further Education course in 1999-2000
IT skills for the workplace is one of University
for Industry's initial priorities and they are offering and developing
a range of on-line learning materials. Over 400 courses are already
available online including materials aimed at developing ICT skills
in the workplace.
UK online centres are providing a quick, easy and
cheap and convenient initial gateway to pursuing ICT skills. The
centres are being set up to provide an easy migration from this
initial familiarisation with the new technologies to the acquisition
of more complex skills through learndirect.
The need to tie all these initiatives more closely
to measurable output is accepted, and the next Annual Report will
include this. With regard to the European perspective, many comparative
EU documents already exist; we will be happy to supply copies
to Committee members if they wish, and will put information on
performance against targets in a European context in future Annual
Reports. In addition, the UK is currently represented in a European
Commission-led group, and is subject to EU-wide targets for delivering
lifelong learning. For example, under the European Employment
Strategy, the fifth Employment Guideline calls for member states
to ensure that all schools have access to the internet and multimedia
resources by the end of 2001, and that all teachers needed are
skilled in the use of these technologies by the end of 2002. In
response to this guideline, the UK Employment Action Plan 2001
states that by the end of 2000, 86% of primary schools were connected
to the internet, and 98% of secondary schools. Of both primary
and secondary school teachers, just under 70% felt confident to
use ICT in the curriculum.
(q) Consumer confidence in e-commerce and awareness
of consumer rights remains low. We would welcome the deployment
of the resources of DTI's consumer division, led by the responsible
Minister, to publicise the efforts being made to make the electronic
marketplace at least as safe a place to buy as the real marketplace,
and to consider what more needs to be done (paragraph 69).
Accepted. Information about safe internet shopping
is available from many sources, including www.consumer.gov.uk
and www.oft.gov.uk. We agree however that more needs to be done.
DTI will therefore be commissioning research into consumer awareness
and the most effective ways of sourcing and delivering information
and guidance. The Office of the E-envoy will be examining the
need for a more integrated approach to information provision,
covering the full range of consumer concerns, such as payment
security, data protection, illegal content and redress. In the
Autumn DTI will undertake a publicity campaign on safe internet
shopping, with further activity in the run up to Christmas.
As the report recognises, other issues are also important
to consumer confidence. The Government's strategy includes:
- getting the legal framework right, with emphasis
on cross border enforcement co-operation against scams;
- encouraging co-regulation. Now that the launch
phase is over, a review of TrustUK is under way and will report
- improving cross border redress, notably EEJ-Net
(NB the operational target date is 15 October).
Advice to Business
(r) There is in our view a role here for the Chief
Executive of the Small Business Service to examine these support
programmes anew and satisfy himself and those who advise him on
the Small Business Council that this is the best use of the business
support funds available (paragraph 71).
Not accepted. Assuming the recommendation applies
solely to paragraph 70 of the report and not the preceding section
we do not accept that there is no evidence of SME demand for the
service offered. We would respectfully point out that a MORI survey
for SBS in Summer 2000 showed that "keeping up with technology"
came thirteenth out of a list of forty six areas on which small
businesses approached Business Links for advice.
We agree that there is a role for the Chief Executive
of the Small Business Service and, indeed, locally delivered UK
online for business services are being fully integrated within
the new Business Link network in England. The SBS believes that
the application of information and communications technology is
a fundamental part of business development and a crucial element
of its services portfolio which fully justifies the resources
The SBS enjoys a close working relationship with
other parts of DTI responsible for UK online for business and
already plays an active role in reviewing and developing the UK
online for business programme in response to customer need and
research evidence. The Chief Executive will ensure that the services
provided continue to satisfy genuine customer needs, while challenging
SMEs to address the opportunities and threats generated by new
We will draw the TIC's recommendation to the attention
of the Small Business Council.
(S) In the absence of an authoritative study,
undertaken by those without a vested interest in boosting electronic
commerce, strategies designed to increase the volume of electronic
commerce run the risk of being counter-productive. We look forward
to the early production of an evaluation of the net economic effects
of e-commerce (paragraph 72).
Accepted. An evaluation of the net economic impact
of e-commerce is important to inform those seeking to implement
strategies to boost e-commerce. HMT is committed to conducting
an economic impact study and the delayed publication of a report
detailing the methodology is not expected to affect the overall
timetable for completing the study.