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E-commerce sales to reach $3.2 trillion in 2003

But shilly-shallying could cost us dear

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Sales over the Internet could generate $3.2 trillion by 2003 if governments and business co-operate to exploit the full potential of electronic Commerce. If they don't and miss a vital "window of opportunity", nearly $1.5 trillion could be wiped off the prediction severely denting the development of a global e-commerce economy, according to a study from Forrester Research. Forrester argues that significant collaboration between business and government agencies will be essential to achieve the full potential of Internet Commerce. "More than $1 trillion in global Internet commerce depends on how effectively business and governments can work together on shared goals," said Michael Putnam, an analyst with Forrester. "The hypergrowth period of Internet Commerce will be a maelstrom of activity, as key industries struggle with the impact of iCommerce on established business models. "A decided advantage will go to those firms and governments that can take decisive action early -- in the commerce threshold," he said. It's this "commerce threshold" that, according to the researchers, holds the key to any substantial growth. Make the most of this "window of opportunity" and Forrester believes e-commerce will really take off. Squander it, and the opportunity will be lost. According to the research, the US is the first country to reach this "magic" point and is providing a "benchmark" for other countries. Only last week President Clinton renewed the US's commitment to building a global framework for iCommerce, pledging to support self-regulation, strong consumer protection, and additional infrastructure development. Not surprisingly, the rest of the world lags behind. But a spokesman at the DTI, who broadly agrees with Forrester's premise, suggested this was good news since the UK was far better placed -- and had more time -- to take full advantage of any growth. "We certainly haven't missed the boat," he said. Indeed, in the UK, the Government's Electronic Commerce Bill is designed to create a legal framework for trading over the Net and is just part of Prime Minister Tony Blair's political drive to make the UK a centre for e-commerce. If Forrester's predictions are borne out, then between 7.5 per cent and 17.5 per cent of total sales in industrialised economies will be generated by e-commerce. ®

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