Net knowledge is key to success, says Blair

Universal access to the Internet and commercial success are directly
related, the Prime Minister told a conference on the knowledge economy last
week.

Tony Blair urged delegates at the Knowledge 2000 conference to pursue an
"endless emphasis on education and skills" and used his speech to
announce a series of Internet access initiatives which he said would benefit
both individuals and business.

He told delegates, "The new knowledge-driven economy is about new
sources of competitive advantage. The ability to innovate, to create new
products, to exploit new markets. Learning is the key to individuals succeeding
in this new economy."

Blair announced plans to install Internet access in all libraries and
schools by 2002.

Other measures include leasing refurbished computers to 100,000
underprivileged households and a discount on the cost of IT courses.

He added, "Universal Internet access is vital if we are to create a
knowledge economy of the future for everyone."

TUC general secretary John Monks endorsed the Prime Minister’s message but
sounded a note of caution over e-commerce.

He told the government forum in London it was vital not to confuse on-line
business with the knowledge economy.

He said, "Building a knowledge-driven economy is dependent on
investment in human capital. Employers will not be able to rise to the
challenge of more open markets unless they have a laser-like focus on the
quality of jobs they offer and the commitment of the people they employ."

Monks told employers they must address the issues of lack of literacy and
numeracy and the retention of valued staff.

"While the UK’s labour market has flexibility in some areas, there are
inflexibilities caused by inadequate skills."

By Helen Rowe

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