Britain Commits To E-Growth

Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been pressing British business to embrace the Internet, met Wednesday with Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates to talk about the industry and general employment matters.

After his 30-minute meeting with Gates at 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister reiterated his commitment to helping British business develop electronic commerce.

"Britain can lead the world in exploiting e-commerce, but only if we act now," Blair said.

"Government is committed to playing its role and business must do the same, seizing on the new opportunities with imagination and ambition," he said. "Too often in the past, Britain has made a good start in new industries only to see others overtake us."

Last month, Blair, 46, appointed an "Internet czar" to help promote competition and training, along with minimizing regulations.

"Like many people of my generation in positions of leadership, I rarely use a computer and, when I do, I usually need help," he conceded recently. "But I know it's not good enough, and if I recommend life-long learning to others, then I know I should go back to school myself."

Gates, co-founder of Redmond, Washington-based software giant Microsoft, was in Geneva, Switzerland this week for the Telecom 99 industry conference. He told the conference Tuesday that computers still require too much expertise of the ordinary user, and predicted that "intelligent appliances," such as mobile phones with Internet capacity, would zoom in popularity.