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Vic Government Plots to Boost E-Commerce

SYDNEY -- Victoria's Minister for State and Regional Development, John Brumby, has warned that the state could lose as much as $13 billion over ten years if businesses do not embrace e-commerce, and has launched a government scheme to drive the uptake.

The $10 million e-commerce initiative, called Victoria's E-commerce Advantage, aims to grow Victorian small businesses' e-commerce development. Under the scheme, the Victorian Government will help these businesses access its electronic purchasing arrangements, fund a team of e-commerce advocates to provide hands-on support and will fund a database to help businesses locate IT and e-commerce expertise.

"E-commerce is revolutionising the way business is done, and the Bracks Government is determined to help Victoria9s small businesses seize these opportunities," maintained Brumby at the launch of the scheme.

"At June last year, only 10 per cent of Australian companies had an e-commerce plan, 33 per cent said they were developing one, 31 per cent were interested but had not started planning and 25 per cent said they were not interested at all," said Brumby. "In the next decade, e-commerce is expected to add an additional 2.7 per cent to Australia's GDP," he added as part of the reason why the economy can benefit from more businesses embracing e-commerce.

Victorian Small Business Minister Marsha Thomson said at the launch that the early adoption of e-commerce is vital to the state9s more than 225,000 small businesses, that employ nearly 800,000 people, and would allow them to "compete in a global economy."

"Currently, business-to-consumer e-commerce, such as online book or CD stores, is grabbing the headlines, but it9s clear that the real benefits of e-commerce to small businesses will come from business-to-business applications," said Thomson.

The Victorian Government has proposed a number of initiatives under the Advantage scheme, that will divide the funding. The Government will devote $6.8 million to help small to medium enterprises and regional suppliers access its electronic purchasing arrangements, while $1.2 million will go towards funding for Exhibition Projects that demonstrate innovative and collaborative use of e-commerce to encourage more businesses to participate.

Taking the approach that both businesses and consumers must get behind e-commerce, The Victorian Government will also develop an e-consumer awareness campaign to inspire confidence in using e-commerce among these groups, create an E-commerce Roadshow to raise awareness of e-commerce among regional businesses and consumers, and build an online e-commerce Info Centre for businesses wanting to know more about e-commerce generally and about the support the Government intends to provide.

These moves are in addition to the VicIT database of IT and e-commerce experts and the team of e-commerce advocates who will provide one-on-one and group support to businesses.

The Government will also investigate legislative steps to better address cyber crime, in a move to hit at one of the negative perceptions surrounding online commerce.

The E-commerce Advantage scheme builds on the Victorian Government's Connecting Victoria policy outlined by relatively new premier Steve Bracks, a strategy that aims to deliver the benefits of technology across the state.

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