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SA Road Forward for E-Commerce Extremely Challenging

[27 March 2001] - KPMG, the consultation firm, has released the comment on the South African green paper on e-commerce, arrived at through a series of workshops conducted with the E-Commerce Association of South Africa (ECASA). The workshops were attended by a variety of e-commerce experts, as well as players from a variety of business sectors.

The report stresses the responsibility of the South African egovernment to create an environment that promotes both e-commerce and the use of technology to lead the African Renaissance.

Several issues were brought to the fore as a result of the debate.

Firstly, the opinion was delivered that South Africa lacks a legislative framework that encourages the legitimate use of technologies to facilitate e-commerce or protects parties from the abuse of these technologies. Any legislation which is developed must recognize the components of e-commerce, i.e. electronic communication, contracts and signatures.

Furthermore, our laws lacking when compared to other, perhaps more sophisticated, e-commerce jurisdictions and trade partners such as Europe- when it comes to the protection of data and privacy. The comment highlights this as a deterrent to foreign companies in these jurisdictions that may be considering entering into e-trade agreements with local companies.

The report recommends two things for the future development of future legislation: concordance with international developments and a laissez-faire attitude from government.

South Africa should participate in international forums and recognize acceptable international regulatory tools including the crucially important tax issues- such as the UNCITRAL Model Law on e-commerce. This should be combined with a non-intrusive governing, whereby the government should establish a framework and structures within which the markets can decide the details of regulation.

While the government must play a role in establishing structures, such as Naming Authorities and Certification Authorities, the report views governmental control of these agencies as non-advantageous, perhaps even deleterious to the development of e-commerce.

As such co-operation between the private and public sectors is essential, with the government being charged with creating an environment that allows for competition within regulation. This includes the provision of incentives and subsidization to help address current imbalances in Internet access and service provision.

To ensure the freedom the report deems necessary, it advises the private sector become aware of the issues surrounding e-commerce and ensure effective self-regulation mechanisms are in place.

Those who agree or disagree with the comment the full text of which is available on the KPMG site- are encouraged to either endorse the comment or express their disagreement.