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International Briefs

Tokyo Consultancy Predicts Internet Spending Increase in Asia
Internet technology diffusion is coming of age in most developing economies in the Asia Pacific, according to a study by Tokyo-based consultancy Access Media International.

Internet technologies will continue to make modest inroads into corporate businesses despite gloomy predictions for the infotech market.

In six out of seven developing markets in the region, Internet and related spending by organisations with more than 100 employees is expected to be between 22 percent and 89 percent of their overall projected infotech expenditure.

(Newsbytes Pacifica; January 26, 1998)

Concerns Emerge Over Security of Internet for New Zealand Health Care
The proposed New Zealand Health Information Services (NZHIS) network, connecting healthcare providers in the country, has raised concerns over the Web-enabling of the National Health Index that assigns unique numbers to health care users.

Tom Bowden, managing director of SectorNet, says security on the Internet is still a big concern. He says the U.S. Health Care Financing Administration has issued a bulletin telling healthcare providers not to send information on patients over the Internet or insecure internal networks.

Paul Cohen of NZHIS counters that current security measures, which include firewalls, high-level scrambling of information and setting up an authentication and certificating body, will ensure patient privacy.

(InfoTech Weekly, New Zealand; January 26, 1998)

Internet Access Via TV Now Available in Malaysia and Singapore
Dutch electronics giant Philips and Singaporean software firm MyWeb have launched the first commercially operational Internet TV in Singapore.

Each Philips-MyWeb Internet TV will come with six months' free Internet access from Singnet, plus three free e-mail accounts for different family members.

The Singapore service will offer educational content, financial information, news and business transactions, postal services, and an online pharmacy.

Taiwanese computer maker Acer will commercially launch CyberTV in Singapore between April and June, and Microsoft is considering launching WebTV in Singapore early next year. Last October, Philips and Technochannel, the Malaysian parent company of MyWeb, launched their Internet TV in Malaysia.

(Singapore Business Times; January 26, 1998)

Big British Corporates Are Still Missing the Point
The largest British companies still seem to be missing some of the most basic points about the Internet, according to the most comprehensive report so far on corporate sites in Britain.

The sites are still barely interactive, according to a report by Fletcher Research, the business publisher, and sponsored by McKinsey. 250 commercial Web sites were surveyed.

Almost two thirds use their Web sites simply to display information. Only 35 per cent try to generate revenues from their sites, most commonly by accepting advertisements from other companies, and only 16 per cent try to sell products online.

Supermarket chain Tesco's sites allow online purchases, but are designed only for Microsoft's browsers.

(Financial Times, Britain; January 26, 1998)

Is the Net Falling Short of its Potential in Africa?
In countries like Ghana and Senegal, a small but fast-growing Web culture is sprouting as competition drives the price of Internet access steadily downward.

But in most of the continent, the new technology has simply passed millions by.

"In the end you realize that what we really have here is a lack of equipment," says Alain Ahounou, the commercial director of Ivorian ISP Globe Access. Price stands out as the major inhibiting factor in Africa.

(New York Times; January 26, 1998)

Internet in Asia is Growing Fast, But Overall Penetration is Still Tiny
In the Asia-Pacific, Internet penetration doubled from 0.2 per cent in 1996 to 0.4 per cent in 1997 and is projected to grow 50 per cent to 0.6 per cent this year, according to International Data Corporation.

While this marks fast growth, penetration is still tiny. The U.S. accounted for $8.5 billion of the world's total Internet commerce of $10.5 billion in 1997. Japan accounted for $400 million and the rest of the Asia-Pacific $100 million of Internet commerce in 1997. The Asia-Pacific will still account for only 17 per cent of the world's Internet commerce in 2001.

(Singapore Business Times; January 26, 1998)

Singapore Trade Development Board Launches Internet TradeNet Service
The Singapore Trade Development Board has launched an Internet service called TradeNet that is estimated to save the trading community $2 million to $3 million a year.

TradeNet processes 99 per cent of all trade permit declarations and is used by 2,400 companies in Singapore, said Edith Cheong, the board's trade facilitation director.

Other planned services include electronic application of letters of credits, loans, and bankers' guarantees with financial institutions.

Singapore is also working with the U.S. Customs Service on an online system called Electronic Visa Information System (Elvis). It is intended to spell greater convenience for local textile manufacturers and exporters, and prevent visa fraud in illegal transhipments.

(Singapore Business Times; January 23, 1998)

Thai Organisation Pushes for Electronic Commerce Legislation
Thailand's National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (NECTEC) will push electronic commerce this year while addressing drafts of five laws related to electronic commerce, according to director Pairash Thajchayapong.

The laws are based on recommendations made during the APEC meeting held recently in Vancouver. The laws, being worked out by legal and technical experts from both public and private sectors, cover data protection, computer crime, EDI, digital signatures and electronic funds transfer.

These draft laws will be proposed to the National Information Technology Committee (NITC) for submission to the cabinet for approval and then to Parliament.

(Bangkok Post; January 22, 1998)

More Examples Cited of Excellence in South African Web Sites
In the second of a two-part series on the Best of the South African Web in 1997, the Weekly Mail and Guardian newspaper identifies the following winners: One World (best music store), Business Times Online (best business newspaper), PictureNet (best picture resource), BMI-Techknowledge (best market research site), Touch of Spice (best restaurant), South Africa Mangoes Online (best fruits site), Child Welfare (best social service site), and South African Political Exchange (best political resource).

(Weekly Mail and Guardian, South Africa; January 21, 1998)

Global Internet Chat Emerging as Useful Tool for Business Forums
There seems to be a flurry of interest in chat as a business tool, especially for customer interaction, at huge companies like Merrill Lynch and IBM, who have used chat to calm ruffled investors or promote the introduction of commerce-ready computers.

IBM once had more than 2,000 customers taking part in promotional chat sessions, which were repeated three times to cover time zones in Europe and Asia.

Jupiter Communications suggests that servicing customers with chat could cost as little as 25 cents a transaction, compared with $1.25 for each phone transaction. Chat also helps provide a safety valve for customers, says William Graham, Chase's manager of Internet services.

(New York Times; January 19, 1998)