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UK behind rest of Europe on e-business says EC

‘Nul point’ for take-up of e-invoices and electronic information-sharing

The UK's progress in developing e-businesses is well below the European average, according to a report by the European Commission (EC). In some cases, the UK is only ahead of countries like Cyprus, Lithuania and Hungary.

Overall on e-business indicators, the UK came in at 28th out of 31 countries, according to the scoreboard report published by the EC this week, which shows the performance of countries delivering on the agreed targets of the Digital Agenda for Europe.

The Digital Agenda, launched last year, commits the European Commission and its member states to carry out specific actions to boost investment in, and use of, digital technologies.

In e-business, the EC ranks countries against indicators such as the number of businesses that share electronic information on the supply chain and how many enterprises use e-invoices.

The UK performed the worst against the electronic supply chain management indicator (6.7 percent of firms) and on exchanging business documents suitable for automatic processing (14.5 percent of firms), coming in 30th place on both, above only the Netherlands and Cyprus, respectively.

The top performers in these categories were Italy for automatic exchange of business documents and Croatia for electronic supply chain management.

The UK also ranked in the bottom five countries for the number of large (60.7 percent, 28th place) and small (26.1 percent, 29th place) enterprises that use software to share information on sales and purchases electronically and automatically, and for the number of enterprises that send or receive e-invoices in a format suitable for automatic processing (13.6 percent, 27th place).

Against these indicators, the UK only ranked higher than countries such as Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Hungary.

It performed relatively better on adoption of customer relationship management (CRM) software, coming in 23rd place with 12.8 percent of firms using software to analyse client information for marketing purposes. But it will have to at least double the adoption level to catch up to the leading country, Austria, where adoption is at 28.5 percent.

However, the UK fared better in other areas of the Digital Agenda, such as broadband connection, where it scored around the EU average of 88 percent for the level of business broadband connectivity. Mobile broadband take-up on laptops is also above the EU average (7.2 percent) at 7.7 percent.

Furthermore, the UK has high online availability of public services for citizens (97 percent) and businesses (100 percent), with usage by citizens at 48 percent of the population. But the use of eGovernment by businesses, at 67 percent, was low compared with other member states. For example, category leader Finland had a rate of 96 percent.

The government is attempting to address low eGovernment interaction with initiatives such as Alphagov, a prototype of the website that could replace Directgov, which has been developed based on a review by the UK digital champion, Martha Lane Fox.

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