Minister of communications Paul Swain has given his government a thumbs up one year on from its e-commerce summit.
The summit, held in Auckland in November 2000, attracted 700 attendees who discussed the government's role in any move to a "new economy". It was followed by a regional version of the same conference that travelled to six different towns up and down New Zealand to discuss the issue of building a knowledge community.
Speaking at the Telecommunications Users Association (TUANZ) e-business conference held in Auckland yesterday, Swain compared the summit with a Christian revival.
"Not that I've been to one you understand, but people were there meeting others who shared the same views and were finally discussing topics that no-one else had understood."
He says the development of Ecat, the electronic commerce action team, has played a major part in getting information on e-business out to those that want it.
"We had a lot of questions about multi-currency banking and problems faced by local retailers offering goods online and only being able to offer them in New Zealand dollars.
So we talked to the banks and we've put together a FAQ on the site that addresses that issue." Swain says he realises this is a low-cost, low-tech, low-key approach to e-business, but it's a great example of helping businesses get down to business.
"We're trying to drop the 'e' altogether - it's about business full stop." Swain says now the dot-com bubble has burst companies are avoiding the flashy excesses but are using the internet to save money and make money in practical ways.
"Take the meat industry - it's doing well despite the downturn because it developed a track and trace technology. Not very exciting, but it will mean that customers can find out exactly where their beef came from, right down to the farm. That's important when you're talking about a world with BSE or other diseases infecting the meat."
As well as Ecat, Swain outlines the other areas that work has progressed on.
"We've had the regional events in six centres that have been hugely successful. We've introduced a raft of legislation that is making its way through parliament and I hope to see the key piece of legislation, the Telecommunications Bill, passed before the end of the year."
Swain says the development of the goal of ensuring all New Zealand communities can receive "two-way high speed internet access by the end of 2003" is well in hand and that companies that want to do business with government will have to have an electronic transactions platform or they will be left behind.
"Government accounts for 30% of the economy and we hope to see some of the small to medium-sized enterprises taking over contracts that currently go offshore."
Swain says the development of the Ecat network, a partnership between government and private companies, is helping businesses identify areas they can work in to move towards full e-commerce implementation.
"I know websites aren't a good indicator of e-commerce readiness as such, but we've done some research along with Waikato University that says the number of companies with a website is up to 61% from 33% a year ago."
A copy of the progress report is available from the Ecat website.