DAVOS, Switzerland (CNNfn) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair teamed up with computer billionaire Michael Dell Friday to call for governments and corporations to work together on powering the connected society of the future.|
Blair received a rapturous response from the packed auditorium at the World Economic Forum after describing his vision for a new society characterized by a greater sense of community and increased use of technology.
Blair spoke of the challenge of the "New Economy", where "information replaces oil as the most important commodity".
On the same podium Michael Dell, the founder and chief executive officer of Dell Computer Corp (DELL: Research, Estimates)., cautioned governments against opposing the changes that the rapid development of technology would bring.
"Don't be afraid or run away from technology," Dell told Blair and other political and business leaders gathered at the annual meeting in the Swiss Alps, advising them to "embrace the changes".
Blair, for his part, reiterated his commitment to making Britain a powerhouse of e-commerce, promising to make the country a leading destination for online business by 2002.
"Heavy-handed state intervention...is dead and buried," Blair said, seeking to dampen fears that too much government meddling would stifle the benefits that could flow from new technology. He said the government would lead the reform of institutions necessary to make the country ready for the challenges posed by the "New Economy".
Blair confessed he remains an Internet novice, pointing out that he was consistently outscored on a beginners' computing course by a fellow pupil - a man who had been unemployed for a long time.
Blair's vision for the future included reform of the European Union's political institutions. He pinpointed the Special European Summit in Lisbon in March as an opportunity for crucial decisions to be made.
Despite his plan to redraw European institutions, Blair repeated his stance that the U.K. is not yet ready to join Economic and Monetary Union, pointing out that Britain's economic cycle remains out of step with its European neighbors.
"It's in [Britain's] interest for the euro to work," Blair told the conference.