A Year Ago: Red tape hinders e-trade

First published: Sun, 05 Mar 2000 12:29:56 GMT

Former Microsoft UK chairman David Svendsen last week called for a light legislative touch to maximise the UK's opportunities in e-commerce

Svendsen, who stepped down from the chairman's role last month after 13 years at Microsoft in this country, exclusively told IT Week that care was crucial. Recent bills affecting electronic communications, e-commerce and data protection have spotlighted the government's role in IT.

"In the transition stage that Internet usage is in today, it would be silly and potentially dangerous for regulators to get too involved," said Svendsen. "For government to put its big hand in the pot could stymie the many good things we can do now on the Internet," he added.

However, Svendsen said that the controversial new Data Protection Act is legitimate. "Basic regulation should apply," he said. "The government should protect UK citizens, but they should have a light touch."

Svendsen also called on the US and Europe to coordinate policies. "We're talking about a global market," he said. "They need to unify their view, because we can't have two regimes in conflict with each other." Svendsen has met with UK legislators before, and has made himself available to act as a government adviser. "They did get it wrong with [Electronic Communications Bill security proposals for] key escrow, but this is a government that is listening. And if it lets industry set best practices, the result will be far better and, frankly, far cheaper than the government could do through legislation."

Two key thrusts that Svendsen will support are the lowering of telecommunications costs and better IT education. "Communications costs are probably the single biggest barrier to the development of the knowledge economy. I was delighted by Gordon Brown's recent comments [on accelerating the end of BT's local loop monopoly]."

Svendsen said the government had failed in its bid to copy Sweden's example of businesses selling off cheap PCs to staff through tax perks. "In Sweden, home usage went up 20 percent. The UK needs to surge forward with that sort of sea-change," he said.

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