Europe is in danger of falling further behind the US in ecommerce if governments do not take immediate action to eliminate obstacles.
Speaking at the Gartner Group conference in Cannes, France this week, the analyst group's research director Alexander Drobik said the European Union must take immediate action to solve fundamental issues, or risk falling irretrievably behind.
These issues include liberalisation, the high cost of the Internet in Europe, and the legal and security frameworks.
Whereas the US was quick to embrace ecommerce, European take-off has been hindered by high telephone costs, and incompatible rules governing encryption, tax and censorship across the continent.
High telephone costs are perhaps the biggest inhibitor for mass take-up of the Net, as local calls are not free as they are Stateside.
Gartner?s Anne-Marie Roussell said consumers need to be ruthless and shop around for the cheapest supplier. While that is easy to do in the UK, the rest of Europe will have few choices until satellite telephone systems from Motorola and France Telecom surface in the next few years.
UK trade and industry secretary Peter Mandelson announced yesterday that one of his main tasks is to encourage the use of the Internet among businesses and consumers to help the UK compete in the next century (see Newswire 5 November).
This task is becoming increasingly urgent for Mandelson and his counterparts across Europe. According to Gartner, Europe is 12 to 18 months behind the US in terms of business-to-business ecommerce, with 55 per cent of current Net users in the US. If the barriers outlined by Drobik are removed, this figure would rapidly be reduced to 40 per cent, with Europe the chief beneficiary.
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