Thought for the day:The take-away economy

Hard-hitting IT columnist Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.Don't even mention WorldCom - the...

Hard-hitting IT columnist Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.Don't even mention WorldCom - the overwhelming sense of gloom and doom in the technology sector is already pervasive.

All my friends seemed to be saying much the same thing, regardless of the size of company in which they work. If there's any light at the end of the tunnel, none of them can see it yet, as they witness their marketing budgets slashed and the threat of another round of redundancies hanging over their businesses.

What saddens me most is that we have some really shining examples of technology left in this country which aren't yet owned by the Americans, but the investment climate is now so poor that I know of at least two that are on the verge of closing up or selling the business for a song because they cannot raise any investment capital.

It strikes me that if Bill Gates were to write a personal reference for a small UK technology company today, the City would still reject the idea. "Gates? He's American, what does he know?"

You can't blame the bankers after they saw companies such as Baltimore raised to almost divine status on market sentiment and crash into a small dark puddle of loose change when the Internet bubble burst.

What's doubly sad is that in the race to become a leading information economy, we are becoming more of an outlet for some other large country's technology franchise. A kind of software McDonald's hanging off the edge of Europe.

Perhaps I'm just being old and cynical, thinking back to the days of drinking the occasional glass of wine with Clive Sinclair. I remember asking him once: "Have you ever thought of connecting a dozen or so Spectrums together to make one large computer?"

I think we call it P2P today or even networking but then it was rather ahead of its time and anyway, the idea for the C5 car beckoned.

So, with little or no money for investment, the state of our home-grown industry goes from bad to worse and the best people sell themselves and their ideas in other countries where the chances of finding support are greater.

The Government needs a wake-up call. Stop drowning small business in new paperwork - like the Class 1A NIC sitting in front of me now - and reward and support entrepreneurs and ideas in the technology sector.

The alternative is a knowledge economy with very little knowledge of its own, and a feeling, echoed by many of the smaller software companies I have spoken with, that their contribution to our future is a polite irrelevance.

Being an information economy means rather more than choosing and using somebody else's software. Wouldn't you agree?

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Zentelligence Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and ramblings of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.

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