Surveys give conflicting accounts of IT in the UK

While the DTI sees Britain as investing well in technology, it has fallen further down an international list

A Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) study into ICT has lauded British businesses' use of technology, saying industry is using it more effectively -- while the World Economic Forum's Global Information Report has shown the UK's global ICT ranking getting significantly worse.

The DTI report says that now UK business is taking tech more seriously, adopting a more rigorous approach to training its staff to use IT instead of just spending money on buying the hardware, firms are actually putting their purchases to work more effectively.

Another major finding of the survey is what the DTI calls the end of the 'dash for access' -- businesses are no longer going mad for getting online, with practically every business with over 50 employees now connected to the Internet.

It's not a statistic that's impressing the World Economic Forum (WEF). Their report, which looks at how much world economies are facilitating and reaping the rewards of ICT access. The UK is rated 15th out of the 102 economies studied -- a large drop from seventh position last year.

The DTI's take on it has Britain in reflective mood on the tech front, with the proportion of businesses as a whole using the Internet flat at 91 percent and companies with a Web site also not moving at around 80 percent.

However, on the small business front, firms are rejecting online as a business conduit. While the UK's SME connectivity is coming from a standing start, at just 69 percent for small businesses and 45 percent for microbusinesses -- only ahead of one other Western country, France, with 59 and 38 percent respectively -- the rate at which small businesses are turning away from tech is surprisingly high.

Businesses with fewer than 10 employees have seen connectivity drop by 17 percent over two years and firms with between 10 and 49 dropping by 8 percent in the same period.

It's all a question of economics, apparently -- small businesses are just worse off than their larger cousins. It seems SME early adopters are shunning connectivity because they're having a hard time of making the figures add up. Compared to the relatively high price SMEs pay for access -- almost as much as residential customers -- they're not finding the amount of hits and usage they get from it is worthwhile. 

Smaller businesses by their very nature are missing out on all the tech benefits. Often located outside of core business locations in big cities, they're more likely to miss out on broadband access and with a smaller number of staff, may not have a dedicated IT specialist on hand to extol the business benefits of the Internet.