When the Institute of Directors (IoD) first published its research into boardroom attitudes to IT last spring, director general Tim Melville-Ross accused UK directors of being digital “Neanderthals”. A year on, the second phase of the Connected World survey shows things have not changed a great deal. “We’ve moved on a little,” said Melville-Ross at the launch of the new findings last month. “One might even say we’ve got as far as the bronze age.” UK directors are the second least likely in Europe to consider the Internet as a serious competitive threat (only 2% think it will have an impact on their business; no French directors thought it a danger). And most express some doubt about the ability of the Internet to cut costs; UK board members rank lowest in the world for confidence in electronic cost-cutting. Melville-Ross stressed that these findings should be taken in the context of UK competitiveness. “The IoD’s survey results show that UK businesses are far from ready to retain a competitive edge in Europe,” he said. “We’re worried about complacency; we’re worried that British business isn’t thinking globally.” Other findings in the same survey show that UK firms are the least concerned about new entrants to their markets from overseas, are amongst the least concerned about expanding overseas themselves (compared to developing national expansion plans) and are by far the most concerned over the low educational level of new employees joining the workforce over the last three years. Overall business confidence is also lowest in the UK. While 50% of UK directors “strongly agree” that their own company is innovative and effective in its use of IT, only 15% think the UK business community as a whole is at the leading edge of computer use.
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