Three years ago few would have thought business adoption of Internet technology would have developed as rapidly as it has, to the point where it is becoming imperative for all businesses to have a Web page -- even to develop a second page.
The acceptance and use of the Internet is rapidly reaching the stage where a second-generation Web page will be required.
A second-generation Web page is one which enables business transactions to be completed.
First-generation Web pages enabled business contacts to seek detailed product information or offered customers service and support.
Already half of the business organisations in Australia have a Web page. In IDC's recent Global IT Survey almost 80 per cent of these Australian respondents indicated they provide detailed product information on their Web page and almost 60 per cent provide customer service and support.
In contrast, only 10 per cent of organisations in Australia enabled customers to transact business via their Web page. This is well behind similar organisations in the US where one organisation in six has a Web page geared to business transactions, and many of these have a global focus.
The Internet is rapidly being transformed from a curio inhabited by the computing underground into mainstream, big-money commerce.
Within the next five years the Internet protocol will become the means for computer files, video and voice to be transmitted around the world. New industries are rapidly emerging, or re-emerging, which will accelerate this process.
The Internet will become much more closely intertwined in all our lives as the second-generation, transaction-based Web pages proliferate.
Two separate types of transactions are expected to emerge during the next few years.
Both will use Internet technology, and benefit from the infrastructure which is evolving to meet these needs. Business to business transactions will rapidly become a core part of the way organisations operate.
Even greater potential, but with a slightly longer time frame, will be consumer to business transactions. These will only become viable as the broad base of consumers become hooked into the wired world, and as consumers' confidence in security and the delivery mechanism becomes established.
Organisations that will benefit the most in the long term will be those that start early and creatively seek to broaden their customer base by reaching out beyond their current constituency.
The first-generation Web page is only the start of the process, not the final destination.
Graham Penn is general manager of research for IDC Australia