IT suppliers body Intellect has warned that there is not enough representation from the technology industry on prime minister Gordon Brown’s new Business Council for Britain.
Brown announced the council to – advise him on issues that affect enterprise, business and the long-term productivity and competitiveness of the economy – in the wake of his first ministerial reshuffle.
It has 15 members and its meetings will be attended by Brown and cabinet members from the main economic departments. But the only technology industry representatives are Arun Sarin, chief executive of Vodafone and Amstrad chief executive Sir Alan Sugar – now better known for his role on TV show The Apprentice than for leadership of today’s IT industry.
Intellect’s director of strategy Antony Walker welcomed the formation of the council, but said: “We’d have liked to see stronger representation from across the technology sector, given the importance of the shift in the UK economy as it moves towards a knowledge economy.”
The knowledge economy now accounted for 40% of the UK’s GDP – a figure that is expected to hit 50% by 2010, Walker said.
“The challenge is to keep the council at a reasonable size but we’d have liked to see another representative from IT and software services there.”
Walker added that the knowledge economy was “very much driven” by the smaller, innovative technology companies that lacked representation on the council.
Intellect would keep an eye on the new body’s activities, Walker said, adding: “We don’t yet know how it will function.”
But Intellect is generally happy with the appointments to the new Brown government. “In key departments there are people we know very well in senior positions,” Walker said.
He cited James Purnell, now culture secretary, with whom Intellect has worked on matters relating to the digital switchover of TV, and Stephen Timms, now a minister at the new Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, who is “someone the industry knows well as very competent and effective” from his earlier stint at the former Department of Trade and Industry.
Walker also welcomed the controversial entry into Brown’s government of former Confederation of British Industry chief Sir Digby Jones, who has accepted a peerage and a minister's job at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform despite not being a Labour Party member.
“We are positive about the structure changes in terms of the reshaping of the DTI and the scope of other departments,” Walker said.
Intellect would be looking for the Brown government to introduce better metrics to scope and measure the performance of the knowledge sector of the economy, he said.
“A lot of the metrics used by the Treasury are old industrial type metrics,” he said, suggesting that while there were “lots of stats about car manufacturing” there were “a lot less on new sectors of the economy such as software development”.