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RealTime IT News

International Briefs

February 11

Online Shopping Picks Up in Latin America

Latin American companies are beginning to embrace the Internet as a tool for targeting shoppers.

In the next two years, the number of Internet users in the region is expected to soar from 8.5 million to about 34 million, according to some analysts.

The number of Latin Web sites, most of which are operated by businesses, could triple in the next year, to over 500,000. Universo Online, a Brazilian access provider and Web site jointly owned by the Abril Group media conglomerate and Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, includes a virtual mall featuring 26 stores and companies.

Flowers, compact disks, books, and clothing are sold, as well as PCs from Compaq's Brazil site.

European Union Tries to Forge Rules for Worldwide Internet Business
The European Commission has attempted to take the lead in efforts to forge a worldwide system of rules for doing business on the Internet, and unveiled plans for an international charter to encourage co-operation among countries on online data protection, copyright, taxation and pornography.

"If we don't agree to terms globally, each of us will try to set our own regulations, which will lead to over regulation," said Martin Bangemann, the EU commissioner in charge of telecommunications.

A recently adopted EU law on data protection makes it illegal after October this year for EU businesses to export personal data for commercial purposes to countries that lack comparable privacy laws--including the U.S.

The E.U. has proposed a specific international ministerial conference to discuss these issues.

(Financial Times, Britain; February 5, 1998)

British Airways to Shut U.S. Offices, Move Onto the Web
British Airways is closing all 17 of its U.S. city ticket offices because customers are buying tickets directly through the airline's Internet Web site, over the telephone, or through independent travel agencies.

Last year, the airline enlarged its own Web site, and has future plans to introduce electronic ticketing facilities at its 22 airport locations.

(Associated Press; February 4, 1998)

Extranets: The Future of Business-to-Business Commerce
Implementing an Extranet with suppliers may be one of the most important moves a company can make, according to QCS, a U.S. electronic commerce company that recently released a report on Extranets in the retail sector.

Extranets are cheaper than EDI, and also help eliminate the lengthy "paper chain" that precedes the sending of a purchase order.

General Electric's switch to an Extranet in 1996 allowed the company to cut the time taken to generate queries from two weeks to less than a day using an Extranet-based trading system called TPNPost.

GE claims it sourced around $1 billion of goods and services in 1997 using TPNPost and predicts this will grow to $4 billion this year. The company also claims to have obtained overall cost savings of 5 to 20 percent through more competitive tendering.

TPNPost has been running since 1996 and now includes about 2,500 suppliers and more than 50 buyers.

(Financial Times, Britain; February 4, 1998)

Christmas Internet Shopping Fails to Deliver in Europe
Christmas shopping online has been a general commercial disaster in Europe.

"We really thought electronic commerce would pick up faster," said Thierry Hamelin, an analyst with IDC in Paris.

"There has been a lot of curiosity, but hardly any purchases," added Serge Desrochers, marketing director of Edicom, an online service that developed a Swiss Christmas store.

Reasons include a lack of consumer confidence in online payment methods, poorly designed Web sites, insufficient promotion, and underestimated logistic and legal problems.

Surf-and-Buy, a French Web site backed by IBM, has been contacted 185,000 times in three months, yet just 1,400 people actually purchased an item.

"We've learned a lot about the market, the need for good and timely promotion, and consumer behavior," explained Jean-Luc Szymansky, sales manager at IBM France.

Cybermall managers also had to deal with a variety of import-export restrictions and duties. "Logistics is crucial, yet it is often overlooked," said Maja Kuenzler, public relations manager with Microsoft.

(New York Times; February 3, 1998)

New Zealand Firms to Spend Half Million Dollars on E-Commerce Systems
About 10 percent of New Zealand's top organisations expect to spend more than half-a-million dollars each setting up electronic commerce systems over the next two years, according to a survey of 300 companies carried out by Wellington-based Price Waterhouse.

About 30 percent of the respondents expect up to 10 percent of their annual revenue to come from Internet-based electronic commerce during the next two years.

Senior consultant Michael Wilson says this is an indication that larger organisations in New Zealand are serious about electronic commerce and selling over the Internet. 58 of the 105 survey respondents expect to be advertising on the Internet in two years, compared to no respondents last year.

(InfoTech Weekly, New Zealand; February 2, 1998)

Australian Officials Address Internet-Age Crime
The Australian Institute of Criminology has released a book called "Crime in the Digital Age," by criminologists Paul Grabosky and Russell Smith.

The authors say that despite the challenges it presents, the information superhighway does have its benefits for the new cybercops.

Photographs displayed on the Internet have already led to the arrest of people on the U.S. FBI's most wanted list. The FBI is also considering using virtual reality technology to recreate the faces of decomposed murder victims.

A conference planned for February 16 and 17 at the University of Melbourne will consider whether the Internet is the 1990's equivalent of Dodge City, where crime is rampant, and how to beat it.

(The Australian; January 31, 1998)