Thought for the day: It's good to talk

The chief executive of BT, Ben Verwaayen, is warning the UK to pull its finger out or else face the great Indian takeaway, writes...

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Simon Moores  

The chief executive of BT, Ben Verwaayen, is warning the UK to pull its finger out or else face the great Indian takeaway, writes Simon Moores.




Ben Verwaayen, chief executive of BT, mixed words of encouragement for the UK, as Europe’s strongest economy, with a clear warning that we have to “wake up” or risk falling behind countries such as India, which are successfully leveraging their cheap labour force and education system to create a knowledge economy to challenge our own.

Verwaayen was addressing an audience of MPs, shadow technology minister, Michael Fabricant and the leading IT suppliers at a Conservative Technology Forum event at St Stephen’s Club, London, last week.

He said, "Two weeks ago I was in India, visiting a couple of  Bill Gates equivalents, both serious developers. India does not have one Bill Gates, it has five."

While India is a paradox with so many millions of people living without any contact with modern technology, it has double the amount of people, living at UK standards or above.

“In Bangalore, I visited a fantastic campus with 15,000 young people, with an average age of 24, average month’s salary, £500 [£273], and average qualification MBA plus," said Verwaayen.

"In 1988, India exported $50m in IT services. Last year, India exported $15bn and these are not the call centres that everyone talks and worries about. This is knowledge.

"It is a fact that we are going to live in a world where aid will be replaced by trade but the problem is that we are not ready for it. We are sleeping at the wheel.

"We worry over exporting our jobs to India and China and we believe that our universities are better than others. Think again.

” We think we have a system that gets the best out of people and makes them productive. Think again. We all have a computer but your computer is worthless unless you use it as an instrument to compete and you need advanced networks to compete,” said Verwaayen. 

He pointed to the movie “Finding Nemo” as an example of international cooperation using advanced networking. The film was made in three separate studios in real time, Israel , Bristol and California, as the artists collaborated on each frame.

“So, what you see happening now is the ability to connect best in class with best in class completely independent of distance and location," said Verwaayen.

He warned that the economy of the world will continue revolve around consumers buying the best possible quality for the lowest possible price and businesses are no different. "There is no point in turning around to your politicians in five years time and asking where the employment has gone," he said.

"If you want to stay competitive you need to look at the opportunity triangle again. On each of the three sides you have knowledge, entrepreneurial skills and costs and in the middle you have networks.

“In the UK, BT is spending £10bn to build the end-to-end IP network we need to make certain, that with a click of a mouse, you can compete with everyone else in the world,” said Verwaayen. 

He implied that BT was providing the tools but it was up to government to do the rest. “This is a fast changing landscape and we should be learning from Germany , where in a short space of time, four million jobs have slipped over the border to the new members of the European Union, proving that in Germany , at least, the triangle doesn’t work."

Sending his wake up call to politicians of all parties, he concluded, “It is time that the UK looked very closely at its own triangle."

Shadow technology minister, Michael Fabricant said, "BT is to be congratulated with the rapid roll-out of broadband, though there are still questions of the speed of the connection - 512kbps will not be the standard of the future.

"BT enjoys a virtual monopoly position in the UK and Ben Verwaayen has recognised this by dramatically reducing the costs of local loop unbundling though we still lag behind France and Germany.  We cannot be complacent." 

In the meantime, he said the government must ensure that BT is given the same access to European markets as France Telecom and Deutsch Telekom enjoy in the UK;   at present there is an unfair imbalance. "Sadly, the three sides of the UK ’s triangle these days looks very like health, transport and housing, with Iraq stuck firmly in the middle, so don’t hold your breath Ben," said Fabricant.

Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies, and specialises in the areas of e-government and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services, visit

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