E-minister to explore mysteries of e-Orient

Patricia Hewitt will sign collaboration agreements with China, and might try to pick up some mobile Internet tips from the Japanese

E-minister Patricia Hewitt will tour China and Japan this month in an attempt to promote the UK as an e-commerce partner. She is also expected to pick up some tips from Japan's success with mobile Internet services.

Hewitt will meet with Chinese government ministers as part of the trip, which will take place between 15 and 19 January. She will sign an agreement guaranteeing co-operation between China and the UK on issues including data protection, electronic signatures and consumer confidence in e-commerce.

The tour will also take Hewitt to Japan -- world leader in mobile Internet services. "Japan is well known for developing innovative and high-tech consumer goods and will be the first country in the world to deploy third generation mobile services later this year. Japan really is ready to embrace the era of Internet for all", Hewitt said in a statement.

Surfing the Net from a mobile phone is popular in Japan, with NTT DoCoMo's I-Mode service attracting over 14 million users by December 2000.

Hewitt went on to claim that "When it comes to mobile Internet and to M-commerce it is Japan and the UK who lead the world".

However, in an interview with Sunday Business she admits that the UK's experience with WAP hasn't been as successful as I-Mode. "I am going to be very interested to explore the reasons why their WAP has happened and ours has not really. There is no doubt, and I do use the system, that access is slow", she said.

According to Sunday Business, Hewitt is also hoping to encourage Chinese IT professionals to move to the UK. The government added IT to the work-permit skills shortage list in 2000 -- making it easier for firms to obtain work permits for new employees from non-European Union countries if suitable candidates aren't available in the EU. Hewitt has already urged India's tech firms and professionals to work in Britain.

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