The UK’s labour government, which set out in 1998 to make the UK the most “ecommerce-friendly” country in Europe, missed its 2002 target for Internet ecommerce by 50%, new figures show.
In 2002, about 490,000 small and medium sized companies bought and sold goods and services over the Internet. The government’s original target was for one million businesses to conduct ecommerce over the web by the end of 2002. More worrying for the government is that the numbers conducting business online actually fell by 50,000 during 2003. This is largely due to wider economic factors.
At its recent eGovernment Summit in London in November, government officials also admitted that they are very unlikely to reach their equally ambitious eGovernment targets. The goal was for all public services to be online by 2005.
The missed targets have prompted government officials and their affiliated organisations to play down the significance of the targets. The goal of getting one million businesses online was intended to be motivate people into action, said one. It was not important if the figure was actually reached, she said.
The targets have also been criticised by some observers because it so easy to be an ‘ecommerce’ company. In order to be counted by the government, a company only needs to buy and sell electronically over the Internet – something that can be achieved by subscribing to eBay auction site.
In spite of the missed targets, use of the Internet in UK business continues to grow. Four out of five of UK businesses now have a web site.