Both announcements come at the start of the Government's knowledge economy week. Speaking at the UK Internet Summit in London, Ms Hewitt said: "Today I can reveal our plans for a virtual network of Ministers, responsible for e-commerce and e-government related matters in 15 departments. All are involved in key initiatives, crucial to the success of e-commerce in the UK. "I will chair the group in my capacity as Minister for e-commerce, working closely with the Minister for e-government, Ian McCartney. Businesses and the public will soon have a focal point in each department. Our network will allow us to co-ordinate e-commerce-related activities across Government, to ensure that we share best practice, have joined up government initiatives and get best value for money." Minister for e-government Ian McCartney said: "E-commerce is a vital component of our strategy to bring the Government into the Information Age. The Government must innovate in the way that we do business, both within Government and in our delivery of services to the public. E-commerce equals excellent services." Ms Hewitt also said: "We will have regular 'virtual'contact rather than waiting for meetings to be fitted into each Minister's diary. We will use a networked IT system to exchange information and help us to make decisions. Our first meeting in December will be face to face to familiarise everyone with the virtual system that will be fully introduced by the end of January 2000, making great progress towards a future of virtual red-boxes." Ms Hewitt also announced plans to provide faster, more convenient access to information services, including the internet without having to plug-in to a wired network. She said: "Radio is an important medium for delivering our vision for the Information Age and making the UK the best country in the world for e-commerce. Today I am launching a consultation to establish the best way of making frequencies available for Radio Local Area Networks (RLANs). "These radio networks open up exciting new possibilities. Users will have faster, more convenient access to information services wherever they happen to be in their premises, without having to plug-in to a wired network. Radio networks will offer inexpensive home and educational networking. They can be used for interactive guides in museums and galleries. And they will provide a new fast route to the Internet. "RLANs will boost innovation, competition and choice. They will offer new services and lower prices, greater efficiency and competitiveness and opportunities for equipment manufacturers. This type of innovative development is key to building a successful knowledge economy." The Radiocommunications Agency will consult widely on the most advantageous way of using the available spectrum. The consultation will end on 28 January 2000. Ms Hewitt added: "The Prime Minister recently invited me to be the UK's first Minister for e-commerce. We want to make the UK the best place in the world for trading on-line by 2002. And I aim to ensure that the e-commerce opportunities this Government offers to businesses and individuals is second to none. "Why? Because I believe - and this is shared by the Prime Minister - that our successful exploitation of the Internet lies at the heart of our desire to build the knowledge economy. We are uniquely placed to grasp the opportunities of the Information Age. We have a world-class IT and communication infrastructure, ranked ahead of all the major economies except the US in an EU study last year. "We lead the world in the deployment of cutting-edge technologies such as interactive digital TV and 3rd generation mobile communications. And we have a regulatory system which facilitates one of the most intensely competitive market places in the world."
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