U.S. Proposal Would Aid Small Net Businesses
The U.S. Congress is considering a federal study to review the challenges faced by small businesses in the areas of electronic authentication, Internet security and interoperability.
U.S. lawmakers are considering the launch of a federally funded e-commerce pilot program designed to help small and mid-sized manufacturers take their businesses online.
The Electronic Commerce Enhancement Act, if passed, will require the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to establish an advisory panel to do an "immediate needs" assessment on the e-commerce challenges facing small and mid-sized manufacturers.
Members of the advisory panel would include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Administration.
"This legislation ensures that no business will be left behind, especially America's small and medium sized-businesses, which are the backbone of our economy and the realization of the American dream for so many," said Rep. James Barcia (D-Michigan).
The new proposal would create a network of centers across the U.S. that offer technical expertise, training and guidance to small and mid-sized manufacturers.
Competitive grants would be awarded to those regional NIST centers who are best able to develop solutions that address the problems facing businesses in their specific region of the country.
"I developed this legislation after hosting an electronic commerce forum in my district," Barcia said. "With more than 300 businesses in attendance, it was obvious to me that while there is great interest in going online, these businesses face a number of challenges as they enter the world of e-commerce."
The congressman has referred the proposed law to the House Committee of Science.
Depending on how "small business" is defined, several reports have indicated that small businesses have been slow to adopt e-commerce. Cyber Dialogue for example, reported last spring that less than 35 percent of small businesses rated the Internet as a major resource for either buying or selling goods and services.
Most small business Web sites are brochure sites: static pages that explain services, list products and offer contact information. It takes an enormous amount of capital, time and focus for small businesses to move beyond a Web site that functions as a brochure and into e-commerce transactions.
Small Biz To Boom
However, a recent report from IDC did say that e-commerce-related revenue driven by small business is expected to grow from US$21 billion in 1999 to $110 billion by 2003.
While some 20 million small and home-based businesses are not online today, four out of five will have Web sites by 2004, IDC predicted.
A major focus of the study proposed by Barcia will be on business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce, as well as the technological challenges facing small businesses in the areas of electronic authentication technologies, electronic security and interoperability issues.
Specifically, the panel will be asked to help determine standards for the electronic linkage of manufacturers, assemblers and suppliers in product supply chains.
"Business-to-business transactions between small and medium-sized manufacturers and other such businesses and their suppliers is rapidly growing, as many of these businesses begin to use Internet connections for supply-chain management, after-sales support, and payments," the proposed law says.