Britain's first minister of e-commerce, Patricia Hewitt, is setting the agenda for Europe's Internet economy. "Britain led the world into the first industrial revolution," says Hewitt, 50, who was appointed last July. "Now, we are determined to be a winner in the second industrial revolution."
Hewitt and the Blair government are aiming to provide Internet access to every British citizen by 2005--an ambitious target. The key, she says, will be giving consumers a choice of affordable ways to tap the Internet through computers, phones, or televisions. Hewitt is credited with the success of Britain's recent auction for third-generation mobile telephone licenses, which raised $35 billion for the Treasury. Now, she's working on a $2 billion project to wire British schools and communities.
Hewitt began her political career 17 years ago as press secretary to the left-leaning former Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. Now, she vigorously campaigns for free competition--and, of course, the growing Net economy. "Britain has a crucial lead," she says. And that's the way she intends to keep it.