Taiwan Bank Network Plans E-Commerce Push

HONG KONG (05/04/2000) - Taiwan's Financial Information Services Co. Ltd., (FISC) which handles communications among 440 banks in Taiwan, this week announced it is launching an electronic payment processing initiative with Hong Kong-based First Ecom.com Inc.

Twelve Taiwan banks participating in the initiative will be able to offer electronic payment processing to merchants that want to start e-commerce operations, according to a statement by First Ecom.com, which is providing the payment processing software platform.

The initiative, which will include Bank of Taiwan, The Cooperative Bank of Taiwan, Taichung Business Bank, and nine other institutions, is designed to give a boost to the e-commerce market in Taiwan, First Ecom.com said.

The First Ecom.com software is designed as a safe and convenient way for consumers to make purchases online, and banks will be able to offer it without big investments in hardware or software, according to First Ecom.com.

The system secures customer transactions using 128-bit Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), Server Gated Cryptography, and OpenPGP technology.

Analysts said such initiatives provide valuable infrastructure for the development of e-commerce in Asia.

Taiwan is one of the region's leading markets for e-commerce, thanks to a technically sophisticated population and strong backing from government, according to Matthew McGarvey, an e-commerce analyst at International Data Corp. Asia-Pacific, in Hong Kong. The FISC initiative is a good move to spur that development, he said.

Another analyst said such moves are likely to bring more consumers into e-commerce but it will take more work and more time before business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce becomes prevalent.

"In B2C, you're not going to have initiatives that suddenly make it take off.

There isn't any one single issue," said Reid Rasmussen, in Singapore, who is managing director, Asia-Pacific, for U.S.-based research firm Input Inc.

Because consumers are a broader, more diverse audience than businesses, B2C faces more potential hurdles than business-to-business e-commerce, Rasmussen said. This is especially true in Asia, he added.

For instance, credit cards, commonly used in B2C e-commerce in the U.S., are not nearly as prevalent in most Asian countries, he pointed out.

"Asia is very much a cash society," Rasmussen said. "People need to be (more) accustomed to using financial instruments, as opposed to cash."

FISC is a private company established in 1988 by Taiwan's Ministry of Finance to handle interbank communications and credit card services.

First Ecom.com, in Hong Kong, can be reached at +852-2801-5181 or online at http://www.firstecom.com. FISC, in Taipei, Taiwan, can be reached at http://www.fisc.com.

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