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Commonwealth Institute Launches eCommonwealth

The Commonwealth Institute Monday launched of eCommonwealth, a portal and virtual meeting place for people and businesses in 54 member countries.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon said the new portal would help to forge electronic relationships that would become the cornerstone of eCommonwealth.

"This new Internet facility will provide the Commonwealth with a virtual meeting place where individual communities and businesses can come together with their activities, conduct business or just keep abreast of Commonwealth and world affairs," said McKinnon.

Already there are 22 million people with Internet access in the Commonwealth, a figure expected to increase to 50 million by 2002.

At eCommonwealth, users will have access to a directory that monitors over 10,000 sites, plus services such as free e-mail, voicemail messaging, telephony and teleconferencing.

eCommonwealth is designed to create online communities by linking people with similar interests, putting them in touch with each other according to criteria gathered from personal profiles. It is expected to help businesses find new markets for products, new suppliers for materials, while providing educators with information from experts in different subjects.

U.K. knowledge management software company Autonomy is providing software to power the profiling and search facilities on eCommonwealth.

Mike Lynch, Autonomy's chief executive officer, noted that it was almost impossible to serve 54 different countries and cultures manually. However, with Autonomy's software, he said, the Commonwealth Institute would be able to deliver information and ecommerce based upon the needs and preferences of each individual user, completely automatically.

"eCommonwealth plays to the strengths of the modern Commonwealth, which is all about networks and communities of interest," said Commonwealth Institute Chief Executive David French, adding that anyone in the 54 countries of the Commonwealth would be able to use it.

Another partner in the venture is free Internet service provider breathe, which is providing portal services. At its U.K. portal, breathe also provides unified messaging, Web calendaring, chat and mobility services, similar to some of the services on eCommonwealth.