Mayor claims London's e-commerce lead under threat

He has been the bete noire of the Labour party for the last five years. Now he is criticising its e-commerce plans
Written by Jane Wakefield, Contributor on

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has urged the government to act immediately if it doesn't want to see London lose its position as world leader for e-commerce.

The report -- authored by the mayor's new e-business adviser Colin Jenkins -- predicts that, without a strategy of investment and training, London's leading e-business position is under threat.

It is the latest in a veritable chorus of disapproval for the government's digital plans. A report from research firm Jupiter suggests the government will fall well short of its target for universal broadband access by 2005, industry was left unimpressed by the recently announced broadband strategy and a Department of Trade and Industry select committee claimed the government's digital divide plans were not taking account of citizens' needs

Broadband is singled out as one of the key issues the government needs to address. The report finds that the UK is already falling well behind competitors in North America, the Far East and Europe in terms of the availability of high-speed Internet access and forecasts the gap is set to widen.

Another area identified as being key to London's future competitiveness is training the workforce in e-skills. The report recommends the UK adopt a universally recognised qualification, rather like the driving test.

Commenting on the report, Livingstone urged the government to act. "The capital's competitiveness will be seriously undermined without the right technology and a workforce with the right training," he says. "There are many Londoners whose talents are currently not being utilised because they don't have computer skills."

Acting chief executive of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry Peter Bishop believes the capital has the potential to be a leading light in e-business. "In the same way that London became a global leader in radio, television and aviation, we now have the opportunity to become the e-capital of Europe," he says.

It won't happen without government commitment at a national level, though, he adds. "The government should promote wider take-up of ICT skills, introduce tax credits for small firms to invest in training, and encourage schools and colleges to work with business to identify future ICT skills needs."

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