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International Briefs

Competition Between Hong Kong and Singapore Takes to the Net
Hong Kong and Singapore have vied with each other for decades for leadership in shipping, trade, and financial services. Now that competition has spread to cyberspace.

In the last year, the two cities each launched advanced local telecommunications networks capable of delivering high-speed Internet access as well as multimedia services to residents.

In contrast to Singapore's government-driven approach, Hong Kong has more faith in market forces and entrepreneurship. In a 1990 television documentary by the BBC, Singapore was dubbed the "Intelligent Island." The government wants to foster a domestic multimedia industry, a kind of "digital Hollywood" serving content to the rest of the world.

IDC predicts e-commerce activity in Singapore will jump from a minuscule $5 million this year to more than $800 million by 2001.

(AsiaWeek; June 5, 1998)

CNN, IDG in Online Deal for Technology News in English; Spanish to Follow
CNN Interactive and publishing group IDG formed a strategic relationship to expand their news and technology services on the Web.

IDG.net will be the preferred provider of technology content to CNN Interactive's Sci-Tech Computing section. IDG brands like Computerworld, InfoWorld, JavaWorld, Network World, and PC World will provide news, features, reviews and tips to CNN.com.

In the near future, the IDG.net sites in Latin America and Spain will provide additional Spanish-language technology news for CNNenEspanol.com. CNN's international sites also include CNNemPortugues.com and Svenska CNN, a Swedish-language news site produced with Telia.

(Web Vision, India; June 5, 1998)

France Telecom Launches Secure E-commerce Service for Retailers
Hoping to push the floundering e-commerce market in France, telco France Telecom launched Telecommerce, a service for small and medium-sized French retailers.

It is expected to be used by several thousand firms in the next 18 months. Telecommerce will be using Open Market software, and conduct encrypted credit transactions with banks.

France Telecom estimates Internet sales could reach $3 billion to $4 billion at the turn of the century. The French use Secure Socket Layer security, but want to move quickly to full Secure Electronic Transactions.

(Web Vision, India; June 5, 1998)

New Report Urges Thailand to Pass Laws for Internet Commerce
Thailand urgently needs to pass new laws to govern electronic commerce (such as through authorised digital signatures) if the country is not to suffer "a disastrous loss in competitiveness in the region," according a report by the Hong Kong-based New Century Group (NCG).

There is a high level of interest in digital commerce in Thailand, particularly among banks, telecommunication companies and leading retail organisations. Laws are currently being drafted by the National Electronic and Computer Technology Centre (Nectec).

The regulations are said to include a data protection clause, computer crime law, electronic data interchange (EDI), digital signature law, as well as an electronic funds transfer law.

(Bangkok Post May 27, 1998)

New Report: Australian Internet Use Doubling Each Year
A new report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that the number of Australian homes using the Internet is increasing by 100% each year.

Titled "Use of the Internet by Householders," the report shows that the number of home Internet users has increased from 250,000 in February 1996 to around 1 million at the start of 1998.

The report estimates that around 3 million people in total have accessed the Internet with 1.3 million of those being in the 25-29 year old age group.

Only 207,000 people have made an online purchase; and the Net is still a male dominated medium, with 1.7 male million users compared to 1.3 million women.

(I-Net.com magazine, Australia; May 27, 1998)

Internet Shopping Picks Up Steam in New Zealand
Patrick Pilcher, an analyst at research company IDC New Zealand, said the Internet commerce market in the country may be worth up to US$655 million by 2001.

The figure includes consumer and business usage of the Net.

One of New Zealand's biggest electronic commerce success stories is Auckland-based PC Direct, which has seen over $1 million in sales since launch in January.

Flower seller Interflora receives about 4,000 hits a month to its sites, of which three to four percent translate into sales.

(InfoTech Weekly, New Zealand; May 25, 1998)

Web-based Commerce Grows Steadily in Europe
The use of the Internet for electronic commerce in Europe is growing rapidly, according to information technology equipment suppliers and market analysts.

Dell Computer said its sales in Europe were now running at $1 million a day. Dell is receiving over 100,000 visitors to its European Web sites a week out of a total 750,000.

A group of IT industry leaders led by 3Com announced the Alliance for the Internet in Europe. The Alliance plans to urge legislators and governments to solve issues holding back electronic commerce, such as infrastructure and tariffs. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has set up a lobby group to put forward a series of proposals about the development of e-commerce in Britain.

(Internet Magazine, Financial Times, Britain; May 27, 1998)

EDI Conference in India Advocates Nationwide Access to the Internet
Nationwide access to computers, the Internet and Internet telephony is a must if India is to reach global standards in infotech diffusion and e-commerce adoption, according to N. Vittal, Chairman of the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB), who inaugurated the recent Edicon'98 e-commerce conference in New Delhi.

Commerce Secretary Mr. P.P. Prabhu said the government had recently constituted a task force to formulate the draft national policy on informatics whose aim would be to enable India to emerge as an information technology superpower within the next decade.

Dr. N. Seshagiri, National Informatics Centre director general, said the government's mindset should be changed to promote electronic commerce and EDI.

(Business Line, Press Trust of India; May 29, 1998)

WTO Agreement: No Internet Taxation for a Year
Software and goods delivered on the Internet will be duty free for at least a year, according to an agreement signed by ministers from the 132 members of the World Trade Organization.

The agreement bars governments for the next year from trying to collect tariffs on items traded via the Internet; it does not cover products ordered from a Web site but delivered by normal means across physical borders.

Eight billion dollars worth of commerce was conducted on the Internet in the U.S. last year, a figure projected to shoot up to $327 billion early next century.

(Reuters News Agency; May 20, 1998)

FedEx Expects Greater Business Growth in Asia
Federal Express (FedEx) expects its worldwide business to expand in the future through the growth of electronic commerce and Internet technology, according to Douglas Topken, managing director, electronic commerce service marketing.

Around 1.7 million packages are tracked each month on the FedEx site. Topken said the company aims at becoming the "airline of the Internet."

FedEx handles about three million packages per day globally. The percentage of business done electronically is now around 35 percent in Asia, up from low 20 percent levels two years ago.

(Reuters News Agency; May 22, 1998)

Internet Will Play a Vital Role in China, Albeit Via Filtered Content
Internet users in China will see content that has been selected, filtered, and published from government servers in 10 Chinese cities.

"We are trying to strike a balance between the free flow of information and protecting our culture and social values," said Peter Yip, vice chairman of the China Internet Corporation, a company set up by the Chinese government to manage the Internet.

Yip was part of a panel on filtering Net content at the recent Second International Harvard Conference on Internet and Society. Yip said even with a filtered content flow, the Internet will be "the single most important force in opening China to the world and transforming the economy."

(Web Vision, India; June 5, 1998)