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E-commerce incubator gives Peel Australian first

THE Peel Region of Western Australia, which comprises the five local authorities of Boddington, Mandurah, Murray, Serpentine-Jarrahdale and Waroona, has achieved an Australian first with the implementation of the Peel E-Commerce Incubator Project.

The project was an initiative of the Peel Development Commission and was jointly funded by the PDC, Networking the Nation and the State Government’s Office of Information and Communication.

Recognising that Electronic Commerce is being driven by large corporations and government agencies this project was aimed at the needs of the 2,500 small and medium sized enterprises that comprise the backbone of the Peel economy.

Attempts to build the ‘wired community’ and the online economy in regional Australia have often been preoccupied with bandwidth and telecommunications hardware. This project was deliberately focused on content, people, education and skills development.

The project was a community-based initiative, designed to harness the benefits of the Internet for the regional economy. World Wide Web based infrastructure was employed to create the structured environment for electronic commerce and online community services.

The key elements of the project included:

• A program of public awareness and information sessions

• The identification of thirty companies to participate in the project

• The conduct of a ten week Ecom-Now™ program to assist participant companies to develop individual E-commerce Business Plans

• The design and construction of the Peel eMarketplace web site.

• The design and construction of the Peel eCommunity web site.

• The incubator consulting sessions (eight weeks) to assist the participants to refine and implement their business plans.

• The development of options and recommendations for a Phase II program to further develop ecommerce in the Peel region after the pilot project.

As an incubator, the project was designed as a specialised environment into which new business activity was seeded and could grow.

Traditional (offline) incubators involve bricks and mortar and associated infrastructure and tend to evolve over a time frame of years.

The e-commerce incubator involved a wide range of online services, web sites, electronic networks and awareness activities as well as highly targeted and specialised education and advisory programs. The time frame for the e-commerce incubator is months rather than years.

The centrepiece of the web-based infrastructure in this project was the Peel eMarketplace. At the time of writing this site is unique in Australia.

Built parallel to the eMarketplace site was the foundation shell for the Peel eCommunity web site which will function as the single window of entry to the Peel Region. This site has direct relevance to, and will be separately populated by, the five local communities.

Building upon the web-based infrastructure established for this project and the experience gained by the participant companies, it has been decided by the Peel Business Enterprise Centre and Peel Develop-ment Commission that a Phase II project will be implemented.

The highlights of the project which include the Peel eMarket-place, The EcomNow™ Program, the model for the Peel Smart Business Network and the basic structure of the e-commerce incubator, are all elements which can be readily implemented in other regions of Australia.

• Mal Bryce is a former WA Deputy Premier and Minister of Technology.

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