This article throws light upon the eight main examples of e-commerce around the world. The examples are: 1. Eureka Cyber Trading Sa, Switzerland 2. The Example of “Boxman” 3. Africa Online Holdings Ltd., Kenya 4. Other Cases of Companies Doing Business on Internet 5. The Canadian Position on E-Commerce 6. The USA Position on E-Commerce 7. Singapore Case/ E-Commerce 8. Ankara, Turkey/E-Commerce.
Example # 1. Eureka Cyber Trading Sa, Switzerland:
Established in 1996 and sold products such as (brand name neckties and music scores) over the Internet that were very costly in countries such as Japan but available relatively cheaply in Switzerland, France and Italy. The company today had 15 websites in Japan; it also sold goods in Switzerland and other parts of Europe.
Customers were usually familiar with their products as they would have seen them in local shops. However, Eureka sold them approximately 30 per cent cheaper than the local prices and so there was no shortage of demand.
The company comprised just five persons, and the speaker emphasized that none of them had a background in computer sciences. The company began by studying the operations of already established companies like CDNOW, a US company that sold CDs over the Internet which had a very good user friendly web-site.
However, CDNOW had been incurring financial losses and Eureka had tried to identify the reasons for the losses and avoid repeating them. The company initially held about 100 conferences in Japan which helped create a first pool of clients. This in turn helped generate further customers.
The company’s success also led to consultancy offers from big firms like Migros in Switzerland and from other small companies. Some of these consultancy reports had also led to books on e-commerce.
Example # 2. The Example of “Boxman”:
A Swedish company selling CDs over the Web that had succeeded in getting the requisite publicity without spending too much money.
This company had motivated some famous singers, journalists and businessmen to buy a nominal amount of company shares and had then advertised the fact of their ‘ownership’ extensively which had generated enormous publicity for the company, e-commerce represented a tremendous opportunity and that there was no need to have a sophisticated technical infrastructure.
Success in e-commerce depended more on business sense than on the sophistication of the website. For example, the website of Boxman, the Swedish CD company, had fewer frills than CDNOW’s site, yet the former had made profits from the beginning and the latter had not.
Example # 3. Africa Online Holdings Ltd., Kenya:
Africa Online began in 1994 in Boston, US and Nairobi, Kenya with the objective of reducing the gap between expatriate Africans and Africa and also improving the access of Africans to current international news. Initially, daily news from Nairobi was sold to buyers among expatriates in the United States and soon the process was reversed with Reuters news being sold to buyers in Kenya.
Later, the company expanded to Ivory Coast and Ghana and then to Tanzania and Zimbabwe in 1997.
The website had 10 million hits per month, the company had 250 employees, the annual turnover was in tens of millions of dollars and there were 150,000 subscribers, many of which were businesses, e-commerce in Africa was still a difficult proposition even though the telecom infrastructure was showing signs of improvement, driven mainly by wireless telecom services which had increased tele-densities in countries like Cote d’lvoire and Zimbabwe.
Problems remained of poor infrastructure, low computer usage, continuance of monopolies and only a trickle of foreign direct investment. However Internet revolution was possible in Africa through building communities of interest, networks of content and service providers.
Africa Online was using 200 community communications centres in Ghana (which until now had provided just telephone, computer and fax services) to provide e-mail and the Africa Online news service to about 30,000 subscribers.
Many of these e-mail subscribers were using the e-mail service for business purposes instead of using the traditional slower methods like telex. Africa Online had also signed agreements with the postal departments in Ghana and Tanzania to provide e-mail services in all the postal centres across these countries.
The company has also set up some commercial networks including a network for pharmacies in Ghana through which pharmacies could order drugs from the central depository over the Internet. The company had also helped set up a real estate network in Ghana.
A large number of African banks had also set up web pages on the network, though online banking had not yet begun. The future plans of the company were to expand to another five African countries during the current year and also spread from capitals to smaller cities and towns.
However, one major cause of worry was the prospect of the Internet becoming free as the company was still dependent on access charges (and not advertisements or sponsorships) for its revenues.
Example # 4. Other Cases of Companies Doing Business on Internet:
Peoplink (a site selling goods from all around the world) [www(dot) peoplink(dot)org]
Lotfy (an online shopping mall in Egypt) [www(dot) lotfy(dot)com]
Siscotel (an online shopping mall in Argentina) [www(dot) compras(dot)com]
Ebay (a large online auction house) [www(dot) ebay(dot)com]
Unibex (a site that helped create webpages and also connected sites of similar businesses with each other)[unibex(dot)trident(dot)net/index(dot)html]
Example # 5. The Canadian Position on E-Commerce:
a. The Canadian Government aimed to connect 16,500 schools and 3,500 libraries by March 1999; to have a computer for every classroom by March 2000; and to establish 10,000 community access sites in rural and remote areas by March 2000.
b. Value of e-commerce in Canada was US$1 billion in 1997, 80 per cent of which was business- to-business. The Government projected this to reach US$ 13 billion by the year 2002, even in the absence of any special efforts.
c. The key elements of the domestic e-commerce strategy are:
(i) Building trust for e-commerce;
(ii) Adapting or building new rules that helped build trust;
(iii) Strengthening information infrastructure; and
(iv) Realizing maximum benefits, both socially and economically, for all citizens,
(v) Adoption of a cryptography policy.
d. Canada’s international strategy is based on the recognition that e-commerce was essentially global and that Canadian industry and government should work together to influence global policy. A major step in this direction had been the hosting of the OECD Ministerial Conference on e-commerce in Ottawa in 1998.
e. Out of the 629 federal legal enactments in Canada, 335 required the use of paper documents or signature on paper.
Example # 6. The USA Position on E-Commerce:
a. Information technology had contributed to nearly one-third of real GDP growth in the US.
b. There are seven million information technology workers in the country, who are earning on an average wages that were two-thirds higher than the US average
c. The decline in price of information technology products and services had reduced US inflation by one-third.
d. 45 per cent of real business equipment investment in the US was in IT equipment.
e. Although e-commerce had begun as business-to-business activity, recent trends of online sales during the holiday season indicated that retail (business-to-consumer) trade was taking off in a big way.
f. e-commerce had grown in the United States without the Government actually doing anything to promote it.
g. Government’s approach is that wherever possible e-commerce should be market driven
h. If US government intervention was necessary, it should support a predictable and simple legal environment.
i. United States believes in a competitive Internet service environment and universal access to the Internet.
j. There were plans to connect all US schools and libraries to the Internet by the end of the current year.
k. The policy of minimal government intervention meant that as far as possible the government depended on existing laws to cover electronic crimes.
l. There is no regulation of Internet content, it is up to the industry built technologies to put control on what should be there and what should not be there on the internet.
m. The US Government is working towards removing barriers to the growth of the Internet. This includes removing restrictions on non-paper-based transactions for which the UNCITRAL model law is being used by State governments.
n. The US Government is also handing over the control of domain names to the private sector.
o. The Government has decided not to enact any legislation on the issue of ‘e-money’, but only to monitor private sector initiatives in this field.
p. Government had granted a moratorium on the imposition of new taxes on e-commerce.
q. US government has set up a Commission to study taxation of electronic transactions.
Example # 7. Singapore Case/ E-Commerce:
a. The guiding principles of Singapore’s e-commerce legislation had been to conform to international standards and models; to avoid over-legislation; to ensure flexibility and technological neutrality; and to ensure transparency and predictability in the law.
b. Singapore Government has passed two main legislations;
The Electronic Transactions Act (ETA) 1998 and
The Electronic Transactions (Certification Authority) Regulations (ETR) 1999.
Issues covered: recognition of the validity of electronic documents and signatures, authentication of the identity of senders of electronic messages, integrity of transmitted documents, identification of the date, time, place of dispatch and receipt, cross-border legal issues, and the liability of network service providers.
c. The ETA had four parts:
(i) The Commercial Code for e-commerce, which established the equivalence between electronic and paper transactions and was based on UNCITRAL’s Model Law.
(ii) The Public Key Infrastructure that was aimed at upholding contracts between parties;
(iii) Electronic Applications & Licenses for the Public Sector which allowed the Government to receive applications for an issue licenses electronically; and
(iv) Network Provider Liability provisions, which clarified that a service provider was not liable for the content if it was merely carrying traffic.
d. One of the new features of the ETA was the presumption of a secure electronic signature which could not be easily disputed by a party later, thereby fostering a sense of confidence in electronic transactions.
e. The Act also clarified that in the case of cross-border transactions what mattered was the place of usual business of the parties irrespective of the actual place where the parties were physically present at the time of the transaction.
f. The Act gave legitimacy to electronic transactions under all Government laws without having to amend individual Acts.
g. It also made it easy for electronic records and signatures to be asserted in court through presumptions, thereby enabling dispute resolution.
h. ETA came into force in July 1998.
i. The governing e-commerce regulations authorize the appointment and powers of Certification Authorities (CAs).
j. As per Singapore’s laws only CAs that met high integrity and operational standards were issued a license to authenticate signatures.
k. The signatures certified by a CA are presumed to be authentic in court.
l. The CAs themselves are protected under liability rules in case they were used so long as they had followed the established procedures.
m. A number of documents which citizens in Singapore are now allowed to file or receive electronically. These included bank account statements, Central Provident Fund (social security) statements, income tax declarations, tender documents, sale and purchase of maps, different types of licenses that included guns, pets, and for carrying out entertainment activities.
Example # 8. Ankara, Turkey/E-Commerce:
a. Ankara set up in 1997 an online export promotion center in Ankara under UNCTAD’s Trade Point programme.
b. Also in 1997 it established an information and Internet service “SME-Net”, for small and medium enterprises and Customs automation project that promoted the use of EDI in Turkish customs operations.
c. National Information Infrastructure Master Plan (NIIMP) formed.
d. In February 1998 the Electronic Commerce Coordination Committee involving government departments, public and private companies was set up to make recommendations on national policy on e-commerce which were accepted as the official state policy on e-commerce.
Highlights of the policy are:
a. Providing a technical and administrative infrastructure for improving access to e-commerce.
b. Creating a legal infrastructure to support e-commerce.
c. Promoting awareness of e-commerce among industry and citizens.
d. Close co-operation at the international level including harmonizing national policies with the rest of the world, complying with international standards and participating actively in international organizations.
e. Government, setup a pilot project as a joint venture between the government and the private sector to simulate business-to-business e-commerce transactions which would provide useful insights for further development of e-commerce rules and regulations in Turkey.