Editor's Note: E-comm: the next frontier

As the industry spotlight begins to cast a shadow on frenetic Y2K reporting, computing professionals should prepare for what is gearing up to be the next IT news hound's delight -- electronic commerce.

That is if you believe the fresh round of expert analysis claiming that e-commerce in Australia is finally on the uptake.

After all, like most things -- reverence surrounding the posting of a Web site has come to pass. What's hot today is business -- the online way.

With Web infrastructure in place across most organisations, Australia stands to be one of the luckiest countries to benefit from its propagation. No longer are we bound by haunting time zones and national boundaries. Distance is no longer an obstacle.

In fact, a number of analysts are so confident of an imminent "e-commerce boom" they are rejecting any sign of local enthusiasm reversing. Even the old security scare factor -- which proved the biggest hindrance to its adoption -- is at last beginning to subside.

According to a recent research report by KPMG and Nolan Norton Institute, "Electronic Commerce -- the Future is Here!" the computers/communications industries show the most aggressive stance and are reaping the greatest gains from e-commerce.

Of the 309 companies in Australia and New Zealand surveyed, the education and financial service sectors are also displaying significant adoption of e-commerce technologies. But before anyone can get too excited, the report emphasised that despite the overall advance, much of the activity related to electronic commerce implementation remains in the ‘talking stage'. Additionally, only 4% of respondents implemented smart cards, 6% kiosks, 9% automated teller machine technology and 16% interactive voice response (IVR). Similarly, only a low proportion of respondents (17%) are currently implementing certification authority technology (that is, digital signatures).

On the security front, the report claimed that "while nearly half (43%) of Australia/New Zealand respondents indicated that security is one of the factors that had a high degree of influence on whether they moved into electronic commerce, only 25% of European respondents in a similar survey indicated that this was a high-influence issue".

Locally, those still wary about security cited identification and authentication high on the agenda, along with firewalls.

In the near future, analysts predict significant plans are afoot for implementation of e-commerce technologies as close as within the next year.

KPMG's report also forsees a growth in communication technologies including corporate WWW sites, with 22% of respondents indicating they will implement sites within the next year. In the same timeframe, 19% of respondents intend to implement EDI, 15% certification/digital signatures, 25% of intranets, 27% extranets and 20% firewalls.

Maybe the pundits are right. Let's hope so.

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