5 years ago... UK minister urges small firms to wake up to ecommerce

The possibilities were endless...

The possibilities were endless...

14.06.99: Finance Minister, Barbara Roche, said on Friday that UK competitiveness is at risk because small businesses in the UK are close to the bottom of the international league tables in the use of ecommerce.

Speaking at an Interforum conference in London, Roche said while large businesses in the UK are on par with their US counterparts, very small UK businesses are not making the most of new technology.

The government views the use of new technology as critical to global competitiveness. Roche claimed the number of online UK businesses had doubled in the last two years, but even that progress isn't enough. "If you look at our position relative to some European countries like France and Italy, we're doing very well. But we can't be complacent. The rapid spread of the internet in Germany is just one example of how fast things can change."

14.06.04: It seems incredible to think businesses ever needed a shove to get online - especially given that six months on from this report being published every man and his dog was launching a dot-com selling all manner of wares.

If anything, that gold rush mentality did far more short-term harm to UK business than it did good, but the long-term effect was a huge public acceptance of ecommerce as the 'brave new world' for consumers.

By 2003 we'd even seen the introduction of 'internet shopping day' - in keeping with the current tendency to give everything its own 'day'.