§ Sir Trevor Skeet
To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement about the Government's plans for an information society initiative. 
§ Mr. Ian Taylor
The information society initiative— ISI—was launched by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade today. The initiative is a partnership between industry and Government to help improve the competitiveness of British business in the emerging information-based economy. It represents a coherent and extensive response to the challenge of information and544W communication technologies which will have a major impact on the way we do business and the way we lead our lives.
The main aim of the ISI is to encourage British companies, particularly small and medium-sized companies, to take full advantage of information and communication technologies. It will help to explain how technology can solve problems for industry and help to win new business. Electronic networks, for example, can give smaller companies access to resources and markets previously only in the domain of large corporations.
UK industries are well placed to take advantage of the information society. We have significant strengths in communications and multimedia which put us ahead of most other European countries, but considerably more needs to be done to apply our skills, to build on our strengths and to sustain competitiveness in a tough global market-place. The ISI, in which the DTI is to invest up to £35 million over the next four years, will play a key role in achieving these objectives.
The ISI provides a comprehensive package of programmes and activities to help UK business into the information society—guidance, road shows, clubs, awards, local support centres, projects grants and technology programmes. It is based on close partnership between Government and industry, with many companies launching complementary programmes.
The campaigns will be integrated with existing DTI services, such as business links. Our specific objective will be to raise awareness and understanding of: multimedia, communications, creativity, technology transfer and technology development. Methods highlighted will include use of the Internet, E-mail, electronic data interchange—EDI—video-conferencing, simultaneous remote access to a computer, CD-ROMS for information storage and marketing, electronic commerce, home shopping and telebanking.
Further details are available at the ISI website, http://www.isis.gov.uk.