Local e-commerce needs regulatory support

Australia lacks the necessary infrastructure and regulatory authorities to cope with the $US200 billion-plus global electronic commerce marketplace, according to a management consultant.

KPMG management consulting partner Jim Walker said the key element missing in Australia was "a trust architecture" that could facilitate third party management and authentication of digital certificates necessary for electronic business transactions.

Speaking at the Australian Computer Society 1998 Electronic Commerce Symposium at Lorne in southern Victoria, Walker said Malaysia and Germany were leading the world in development of such an architecture. Both countries have established similar agencies charged with this responsibility, he said.

However, he said, Australia, the US, Britain and most of Europe and Asia were still working on it.

This stumbling block comes at the time, Walker said, when Australian companies are starting to shed their concern over security issues associated with electronic commerce.

But while the absence of a suitable framework for electronic commerce clearly has the potential to disadvantage businesses, the e-commerce solution providers themselves, particularly in the US, are in a critical condition.

Few organisations have been able to justify investment in e-commerce solutions largely due to fragile security and regulatory foundations.

A team of UN specialists based in Melbourne is currently working to develop an Australian certification authority, Walker said. By accessing what is to be called GTPnet, local companies will be able to trade with registered companies and access relevant information. However, certificates for global trust and security, necessary for high value dealings remain in the development stage.