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Brown promises e-spending boost



Chancellor Gordon Brown identified e-commerce as the "newest and most decisive challenge" to the UK economy in his comprehensive spending review, announced this week.

Brown said this year's £22.5bn sale of mobile telecoms licences would generate an extra £1bn a year in public spending.

High-tech commitments focused on e-skills, e-government and regional development plans. There will be:

  • A new fund to ensure all government services are available online by 2005

  • £110m to fund the Small Business Services Gateway project, which provides online business advice

  • Funds to link every school to the Internet by 2002, and boost the target for 14-year-olds meeting numeracy, literacy and computer skills standards from 50% to 85%

  • Increased funds and more autonomy for Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) to fund high-tech businesses and training initiatives.

    Despite the pledges, many high-tech firms remain dissatisfied, both over spending and taxation. Phil Boursfield, senior vice president at storage specialist Veritas, described the proposed boost for RDAs as "not nearly enough".

    "Veritas on its own is investing £250m [in UK IT]," he said, adding it had halved planned investment because of the UK tax environment.


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