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UK must invest more to compete online - round table results

Article date: Fri, 23 Jul 2010 12:52 GMT

John Earley, business development director at Metronet UK

Despite internet sales reaching £4.4bn last month, business leaders are still not recognising the importance of investing in quality technology to compete online, according to an industry round table.

Paul Harris, marketing director at hosting provider UKFast, says, "Companies are failing to deliver the experiences that customers expect. Despite the huge demand online, users are being left unsatisfied and businesses are failing as a result.

"Considering how important having an online presence is to most people, whether it is as an ecommerce site or for lead generation, you have to question why anyone would take the risk of providing a poor user experience when it is that important to their livelihoods."

From the consumer perspective, due to insufficient government funding the UK is struggling as a nation to set up an appropriate broadband network to connect users to the internet. Tom Cheesewright, strategy director at And Digital, believes that with the absence of a universal network the onus must fall to fast local fibre rings to satisfy the demand.

He says, "I can't see there being a universal next generation broadband network in the UK. I think a patchwork quilt fibre structure is the way forward, where there is someone like a Metronet in every area offering this kind of service who can then progressively link up."

Although supportive of a citywide structure, John Earley, the strategic development director for Metronet UK, believes that it will eventually fail at the hands of BT.

John says, "Fundamentally BT is a great company but it is driven by accountants who will protect their legacy revenues at the expense of pioneering new technology. When other companies have an impact on its business BT will move to offset the competition."

Ultimately, to be able to challenge Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands in terms of European broadband penetration, the UK must work together to provide a nurturing environment for growth online.

Supporting Martha Lane Fox's manifesto to create a networked nation, the future of online Britain lies in educating SMEs and blue chip companies to work together to help bring more consumers online.

John says, "Whoever your customer is, whether it is a consumer or a B2B customer, you have a vested interest within an ecommerce environment to ensure that the shopping experience is the best that it possibly can be."

Jeff McCarthy, senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, adds, "In terms of the responsibility of building online Britain we all have a role to play, from the government and industry to education. Ideas are what generate online growth and we need to nurture talent and open ourselves up to new ideas."

The round table discussions are held in association with UKFast with the aim of uniting business leaders to share advice and provide a wealth of ideas for other developing companies.


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