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Roger Clarke's 'What Must EC Delivery Now?'

Panellists' Statements

Plenary Panel Session of the 13th International Electronic Commerce Conference, Bled, Slovenia, 19-21 June 2000

Revised Version of 30 June 2000

© Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 2000

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As a closing session to the conference, a distinguished international panel of experienced electronic commerce academics and practitioners was challenged to identify the most urgent needs of E.C. right now.

This document identifies the panellists, and presents their written statements.

The panel participants were:

Make tele- and video-conferencing work!

Georg Gotschlich, Customs Consultant, Königswinter, Germany is a former senior Customs official on the international and national level. He is active in introducing modern E-Communication methods in government. He is attending the Bled Conference for the tenth time.

Tele- and Video-Conferences are recommended as costsaving and replacements for extensive Business-Tavel. Since the German Capital is now Berlin, the Parliament, the Chancellery and all the Ministers have their offices there, and since the staff of six of the 14 Ministries is staying in the former Capital Bonn, a lot of money and time is spend for air travel. The Government has created an extensive Program ("IVBB Berlin-Bonn Information Network"), which works efficiently as secure tele-network.

The Video part is only accepted by few yet, due to a lack of atmospheric and personal feelings important in human relations and for the success of meetings, difficulty of personal contacts beween participants, artificial surroundings, importance of camera-positions, etc.

The positive aspects apart from the travel-saving aspect will reduce the resistance and lead to a second phase, consisting of face-to-face life-size screens using the broad band of the IVBB Network, already in existence between some of the partners in the program. Since up till now only a point-to-point system is in place, this might be enlarged to a multiple system, when the participants in video-conferencing would no longer have to even leave their desks.

Gain 'return on attention'!

Claudia Loebbecke, Professor at the Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, and the University of Cologne, Germany

The digital economy leads to new economic paradigms. Audience attention becomes one of the most critical 'assets' when doing business on the Web. The importance of attracting new customers, maintaining a comprehensive customer base, and providing excellent customer service is not new. But the relative price for audience attention has reached a new height. Entry barriers to being in the electronic marketplace are comparatively low, but barriers to attention, a positive return on attention, and hence profit are turning into the most crucial challenge for many players in cyberspace.

Serve regional, rural and remote areas!

Paul Swatman, Professor, and Head, School of Management Information Systems, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. He has over 20 years' professional experience in the management and development of information systems, and since entering academe in 1988 has maintained his consultancy practice in Information Technology and Electronic Commerce.

It is a mantra of the informed electronic commerce community that the impact of B2C eCommerce is very much less significant than is that of B2B eCommerce.  While that may be true for an organisation's bottom line, finance is not the only consideration.  B2C (and, indeed, A2C) eCommerce in the broadest sense has had, and continues to have, a significant social effect.  For example:

Telecommunications-supported eCommerce is much touted by Governments and by industry as the saviour of rural, regional and remote (R3) communities.  In practice, the impact has been much more mixed.  The challenge then is for eCommerce to support these communities socially and economically.

Serve Eastern and Central European countries!

Gheorghe Sandulescu, Ecol. University, Bucharest, Romania

In Eastern Europe, the ignition of e-activities is occurring right now. Many conferences are being held, including one in Romania on 4-5 September 2000 under the sponsorship of the real Count Dracula (the country's highly respected leader in the fifteenth century).

Some EC implementations are already under way, particularly in the banking sector. E-commerce is seen in eastern Europe not only as a way to enhance effectiveness and efficiency within individual countries, but also as a means for achieving co-operation and integration with western Europe.

Make EC usable in an international and multicultural environment!

Guillermo Barrera Fierro, Chairman and founder of Catalogo Electronico de Produtos. He provides consulting to B2B community-building applications that are being used in South Africa, Belgium, Spain and Portugal. He is also involved in the current UCCnet community-building effort in the USA. Previously he was Director of IS for the largest Portuguese retail group and assistant professor at University of Minho. He is attending the Bled Conference for the 4th year.

Most EC standards becoming available for the Internet medium are generated in the US, and they are US-centric. This makes it hard for solution developers in other continents to use the software development kits to implement solutions geared toward their local markets or for global markets.

Sometimes this is because it is assumed that business rules are the same everywhere, and also because some cultural and legal aspects are neglected. Additionally, almost all solutions are still based on a PC-paradigm, although WAP has been growing in popularity, especially in Europe. There is a need to implement information appliances that can ease those cultural barriers and make more consumers have access to EC solutions.

This is, however a vicious circle, since the WEB paradigm is primarily oriented towards a non-voice, text + graphics interface. So, there is a need to simultaneously evolve the WEB paradigm and find new delivery tools (internet appliances) to allow for the development of the market.

E-commerce is more than a web-page and a database (even if it is designed for XML)!

Jens Hørlück, Associate Professor at Department of Management, University of Aarhus. Jens has 25 years of experience in the IT industry and in academia.

You have to be able to to deliver to the customer as you promise.

E-commerce is global business and selling to many markets means that you have to design your back-end solutions for all these markets.

When you are selling to many countries, each with their culture, language, judicial system etc. you have many important decisions to make.

Logistics, warehousing and delivery is probably the most important, but that is not enough.

Op top of that are a number of important issues:

Lose the euphoria, and get real!

Roger Clarke, Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, and Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University, Canberra. He has spent 30-years in the IT industry, 10 of them as a senior academic, and is participating in the world's leading EC conference for the 10th time.

The utter nonsense of the 'investment' 'boom' has deflected attention from the potential of electronic tools to serve organisations, and, through them, people. The first thing we need to do is to overcome the gambler's impulse, and get back to the business of running what we've got: an ever-more-complicated, ever-more-depleted, ever-more-threatened world.

Business-to-business e-commerce ('B2B') is held back by the dominance of the American 'ethic' of competition-at-all-costs. Organisations need to re-discover the value of balance between competition and co-operation; or, as someone I know put it 30 years ago, collaboration is different from 'clobberation'.

Business-to-consumer e-commerce ('B2C') is in dire straits, because of the inability of marketers to notice that e-consumers are different, and that the conventional notions of 'marketing as conquest' don't and won't work in the new context. Marketers have to discover that the Internet isn't a broadcast medium, that consumers have power (even if most of them haven't noticed it yet), and that PC-using buyers are in a different mind-state from couch-potato TV-watchers. The problem with 'B2C' is the '2' ... (And if that's too obscure, try replacing the 'to' with a 'with').

Could the one area of progress be government-to-citizen e-business (e-government? 'G2C'?). Again, the habits of a lifetime die hard. In government agencies, stakeholder involvement is more nominal than real, and the conception and design of systems seldom include meaningful participation. To realise the potential of e-government, government officials have to actually become public servants.

Discussion Points

During the active discussion session, the following questions were examined:

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Created: 21 March 2000 - Last Amended: 30 June 2000 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 15 February 2009
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