Coming out the other end of the Asian economic crisis the region desperately needs to address its e-commerce infrastructure and operations to keep in touch with the rest of the world, according to industry analysts at Dataquest's Predicts '99.
Joe Sweeney, research director at GartnerGroup, believes Asia is definitely lagging behind North America and Europe in the deployment of e-commerce solutions. However, simple comparisons between the markets are not indicative of the unique problems facing the region. "How far we are behind America is the wrong question to ask," states Sweeney. "They are completely different markets and the regional diversity in the regions means that different applications will be developed."
One of the biggest disparities is the definition and number of small businesses in the Asian region compared with other continents. "Ninety five per cent of businesses in this region are small businesses," asserts Sweeney. "This definition includes businesses of less than 100 employees. America's definition is a business that earns less than $US50 million, which obviously makes for different capabilities and applications."
The fact remains though that only 15 per cent of both core and non-core applications have been developed to include e-commerce strategies in the Asian region. "We are still at the simple Internet access stage at the moment - we barely use e-mail," Sweeney said.
However, Sweeney believes that there are a few key points that can accelerate the growth of e-commerce in the region. "Legal frameworks, especially in Australia, need to be implemented before banks will become involved in electronic transaction acts (ETAs). We need to decrease the cost of our telecommunication infrastructure, at the moment it costs 10 times more than in the States to set up an extranet. And governments need to offer incentives. Singapore and Victoria are the best governments in the region doing this with tax breaks."