View from the West Coast
By John Makulowich
REDWOOD CITY, CALIF. -While driving around Silicon Valley, reading the local papers, hearing about new job openings and soaking up conversations at conventions, one gathers the strong impression that high-tech is alive, well and thriving in Silicon Valley.
From my lodgings, I can see Oracle's (http://www.oracle.com) headquarters and the new multistory building under construction on its campus - another in the series of mostly glass and spray-can shaped edifices neatly arranged in a row.
Further down the road, Electronic Arts (http://www.ea.com), the maker of games for the ilk of Sony and Sega, also is creating new offices.
On assignment here, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on the general topic of Commerce on the Internet at the annual convention of the American Library Association in San Francisco.
My primary role on the panel was to discuss developments and trends.
Here are some of the areas covered at that meeting:
I suggested that a convenient and simple scheme for viewing the issues of commerce on the Internet is to parse the different entities by domain, that is, .com, .edu, .gov and .org. While there is overlap, there are distinct features in each.
For example, .gov, especially the federal arena, is focusing on online procurement as well as offering decision aids to its respective staff on health benefits and career opportunities.
All these are business approaches to reducing costs and overhead and increasing productivity. Another instance is .edu, where one sees new business-related initiatives in alumni relations (funding), distance learning and continuing education.
After the talk, Gary Peete from the University of California, Berkeley, suggested I add home pages created by students who are looking for full-time jobs as well as internships.
Another key area to address for those interested in Internet commerce trends is to monitor legislation. Using GPO Access (http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/aaces002.html) to search for bills introduced in this session of Congress (the 105th), I keyed in "internet" and received 77 "total hits." Among the more interesting were S. 442, "To establish a national policy against state and local government interference with interstate commerce on the Internet or interactive computer services, and to exercise congressional jurisdiction over interstate commerce by establishing a moratorium on the imposition of exactions that would interfere with the flow of commerce via the Internet, and for other purposes."
Then there was S. 875, "To promote online commerce and communications, to protect consumers and service providers from the misuse of computer facilities by others sending bulk unsolicited electronic mail over such facilities, and for other purposes."
A third area is the continuing need to rethink the way we do business over the Internet as well as the way we reward workers. One example is sales and support services, where front-line sales personnel, in direct contact with customers, can give them easily created icons for their virtual computer desktops that allow the buyer to connect to corporate support by double-clicking on the link to e-mail. Fedex is the obvious model here.
You can reach John Makulowich by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; his home page is http://www.cais.com/makulow/.
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