Warm welcome for UK e-envoy amid doubts about the job

Senior advisers on e-business have welcomed the government's latest choice of e-envoy but have questioned the value of the role.

Senior advisers on e-business have welcomed the government's latest choice of e-envoy but have questioned the value of the role.

Matthew Burgess

The government today announced that former Inland Revenue IT director Andrew Pinder has accepted the position. Pinder has been acting e-envoy since the resignation of former incumbent Alex Allen in October.

Jim Norton, head of e-business policy at the Institute of Directors, and one of the contenders for the position when it was first announced in 1999, commented:

"This is actually a very good appointment. He has acquitted himself very well under difficult circumstances over the last four months and he is good with both public and private sectors. His experience in the Inland Revenue should also stand him in good stead. It may be fashionable to knock the Inland Revenue, but they are actually one of the better examples of e-enabling government departments - at least they had the guts to try."

However, Peter Sommer, specialist adviser to the Commons trade and industry select committee on e-commerce and a research fellow at the London School of Economics, sounded a note of caution:

"Andrew Pinder is competent and knowledgeable - but what is the job? There has been a lot of drift in the remit since the position was announced. He has got to find out where he fits in between government computing strategy or procurement, and the trade and industry element. However, having worked in the e-envoy's office, he is probably in a better position to produce something of value than someone from outside."

Among the responsibilities of the e-envoy are developing government e-commerce policy and supervising the implementation of current e-government strategies.

Nigel Hickson, head of e-business at the CBI, said, "We think that this is an excellent appointment. We hope he will promote UK plc as well as continuing to push for the culture changes that are necessary if the government wants to conduct its services electronically."

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