UK, Canada Digitally Ink E-Commerce Pact

The United Kingdom and Canada digitally signed a pact Thursday promising to cooperate on developing e-commerce and e-government initiatives.

“It is through collaborative efforts such as this that we cultivate a secure environment for the growth of electronic commerce,” said Brian Tobin, Canadian Minister of Industry.

Tobin added: “By addressing key issues such as privacy, consumer protection and security online, governments can help promote cross-border electronic commerce and the growth of the information society internationally.”

As a symbol of the countries’ resolve, the document was signed electronically. Tobin and Lucienne Robillard, President of the Treasury Board of Canada and Minister Responsible for Infrastructure, digitally signed the document from Ottawa. Across the pond in the UK, the document was digitally signed by Britain’s State Cabinet Office Minister Ian McCartney and Patricia Hewitt, Minister for Small Business and Electronic Commerce.

Driving Force

The “Joint Statement on Global Electronic Commerce and E-Government,” recognized that electronic commerce “will be one of the major driving forces of the 21st century: enhancing productivity and innovation, creating jobs and new markets, improving the quality of services in private and public sectors, and offering consumers greater choice.”

The governments of the UK and Canada pledged to “work in concert” with the private sector, other governments, civil society, and international organizations to foster an international environment that supports the growth of e-commerce.

The two countries plan to create this environment by building the confidence of consumers and users in e-commerce, establishing ground rules for the digital marketplace and enhancing the information infrastructure.

The pact also provides that the two countries will work to maximize the social and economic benefits of e-commerce. In addition, Canada and the UK said they intend to promote global participation in e-commerce.

Business Duty

Although the UK and Canada believe that government has a role in creating a favorable environment for e-commerce — by optimizing private sector innovation and minimizing regulatory barriers — they acknowledge that “the private sector should lead in stimulating the growth of electronic commerce through investment and innovation in products and services.”

One way that the governments plan on becoming model users of information technology is by beefing up their e-government initiatives.

The pact calls for governments to work together to “transform their respective governments through the widespread adoption of online service delivery.”

UK Hurdles

The development of an effective e-government strategy is especially important for the UK, whose e-government initiatives received a failing grade from Forrester Research last week. Forrester said that the failure of the British government’s current e-government strategy is jeopardizing a potential US$5.35 billion in cost savings that could be gained through e-commerce.

“All government agencies suffer from gaps in knowledge and understanding, and the inability to implement innovative services is holding the government back,” Forrester analyst Caroline Sceats said.

According to Forrester, by mid-2002, the UK “will drop the go-it-alone strategy, opening up business processes and service opportunities to new partners.”

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