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EDI Network to Be Established in India

The Ministry of Commerce, India plans to commission the country's electronic data interchange (EDI) network by the end of the year, says government official.

Observers believe that this will give a big boost to the role of e-commerce for Indian exporting community in the next millennium.

"We have fixed December-end as the target date,"says Nripendra Mishra, additional secretary, ministry of commerce.

Coordinated EDI will be implemented in select government regulatory and facilatory organizations such as ministry of commerce, customs, airlines, ports, the directorate general of foreign trade, banks, regional licensing authorities and other organizations.

Nripendra said the EDI Council of India (within the ministry) headed by the Commerce Secretary, had been entrusted with the job of achieving full interconnectivity between all these agencies before the specified target date.

"Inter-connectivity of various agencies and commonly accepted (standardised) forms have been the two major factors responsible for the delay," he added. Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) and National Informatics Centre (NIC) will be the major value-added network (VAN) carriers for connection various organizations on the EDI loop.

NIC has already set up a nation-wide computer communication network with over 600 nodes, connecting the national capitals and district headquarters.

Stressing the urgent need for formulating standards and streamlining procedures in line with UN Edifact norms, Nrependra said the already formed Indian Edifact Committee has been given the job. The contractual obligations and the security aspect would be in place once the Bill on Cyberlaws is passed by the new parliament.

"E-commerce and EDI are the low cost platforms to reach out the global market and reduce transaction costs," Nripendra Mishra said. Creation of a Web site, extending it through connectivity to the supply chain and industrial convergence (to combine expertise with packaging of services) was the three key stages, he added.

Meanwhile Rakesh Shah, chairman of the Federation of Indian Export Organisation (FIEO), eastern region, said e-commerce is in the agenda of the forthcoming Seattle round of World TradeOrganizationn (WTO) talks and deliberations will be held on the issue of keeping e-commerce free from taxation.

The barriers to e-commerce in India, he felt, were low Internet penetration, low level of internal integration of business, still improving telecom infrastructure and regulatory uncertainty. A perceived security threat was driving away a number of business entities from e-commerce, he added.

There is no-escape for India from EDI, says market analysts. EDI will become an inevitable and crucial instrument for exporters. Singapore has levied extra charges on non-EDI transactions and the US -- India's largest export market -- is going paperless. More over, European Community (EC) members are also planning to levy up to 50 per cent processing charge for non-EDI documentation.



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