'You can do business at 56k'

Broadband is not essential to the progression of e-commerce in New Zealand, according to the top two of the just-terminated E-commerce Action Team.

Broadband is not essential to the progression of e-commerce in New Zealand, according to the top two of the just-terminated E-commerce Action Team.

“You can do business at 56k[bit/s],” says ECAT chair Gil Simpson (pictured). If meaningful business can’t be done with a comfortable response time over a 56k modem, then the website has been badly designed, he says.

Simpson was defending an earlier assertion that “no one is better advantaged than New Zealand” in expanding its e-commerce presence on the world stage. He challenged Computerworld to “tell me some advantage the US has that we don’t”. When “a more efficient communications infrastructure” was suggested, in line with a statement in Ecat’s own final report, Simpson said “Yes, correct. Top marks. But is it necessary for e-commerce?”

E-commerce is about providing for everyone, not just Lord of the Rings, says deputy ECAT chair Catherine Calarco (pictured), referring to the large bandwidth needed for Weta Digital to transfer high-resolution film images. People working on such a film project need that bandwidth, but it is a higher priority to get 56kbit/s to everyone including farmers and other rural users, she says.

The argument that websites are becoming more technically elaborate and that New Zealand companies have to keep up with that trend for the sake of their image is fallacious, Simpson says. An elaborate website is a slow website, he says. He suggests there is a real correlation between prompt loading of the website and the likelihood of commercial success.

Simpson and Calarco cite small businesspeople - a potter and a manufacturing jeweller - operating out of smaller centres like Nelson and trading nationally and internationally with no better than modem access.

The potter had attended the West Coast regional e-commerce event organised by ECAT, and spoken to other aspiring e-traders about his experience in getting online.

This kind of interaction was at the core of the team’s promotion of e-commerce, Simpson says — a businessman talking to other businesspeople about business.

“It’s business that’s important, not technology.”

The important thing is how to apply it, not what a particular software application does, adds Colarco.

Oracle chief Larry Ellison had annoyed Simpson by talking of the internet as “still in the Model T Ford era”.

“What’s important is not the techology of the car, but what the car does to society.”

In that light, he calls on the promoters of cellphone services to look a little deeper into the same aspect.

“Telecom and Vodafone know all about the technology of SMS; but I wonder how much they really know about what people do with it.”

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