Regional Vic to go online in Govt-backed venture

The Western Victoria Chamber of E-Commerce has launched a regional web portal, http://www.MainStreet.au.com, to boost e-commerce uptake among funding and skill-strapped communities in regional Victoria.

The project is aimed at overcoming cost and IT skill-shortage barriers faced by regional Australia. Such disadvantages have hindered country businesses from creating a national profile through the web, access to new markets online, and e-commerce uptake in the region, according to Helen Thompson, project manager of MainStreet.au.com.

The portal provides the Ballarat region with an electronic gateway to customised information on local organisations.

Businesses that have flocked to the site include real estate, manufacturing, IT services and wine companies, who will exploit Mainstreet.au.com to promote business and tourism opportunities.

Special interest groups like sporting associations, women's groups, business associations and local education institutions from the Ballarat region would follow suit, according to Mainstreet.au.com.

The project would "bring back a level of control to the community", said a spokeswoman for HarvestRoad, the application service provider (ASP) supplying the IT platform for the portal.

Women were the strongest supporters behind the project, according to Norman Gale, product group manager for HarvestRoad. "It's a reconstruction of over-the-fence style communication," he mused.

The Federal government has backed the project, dipping into the Regional Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund -- Networking the Nation -- to provide $250,000 in startup capital, a MainStreet.au.com spokesman said.

The University of Ballarat's centre for e-commerce and communications will implement the project design.

Mainstreet.au.com is the second stage of the Western Victoria Chamber of E-Commerce and Victorian State Government's Ararat Online virtual community initiative, which marketed the Ararat municipality's profile in a low-cost web-hosting venture for local businesses and non-profit groups.

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