The political and regulatory environment is shaped by the interplay of government agencies, public opinion and consumer pressure groups such as CAUCE (the coalition against unsolicited e-mail) which were active in the mid-1990s and helped in pressurising for laws, www.cauce.org, and industry-backed organisations such as TRUSTe (www.truste.org) that promote best practice amongst companies. The political environment is one of the drivers for establishing the laws to ensure privacy and to collect taxes, as described in previous sections.
Political action enacted through government agencies to control the adoption of the Internet can include:
• promoting the benefits of adopting the Internet for consumers and business to improve a country's economic prosperity;
• sponsoring research leading to dissemination of best practice amongst companies, for example the DTI international benchmarking survey;
• enacting legislation to regulate the environment, for example to protect privacy or control taxation;
• setting up international bodies to coordinate the Internet such as ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, www.icann.com) which has introduced new domains such as .biz and .info.
Some examples of the role of government organisations in promoting and regulating e-commerce is given by these examples from the European Commission:
• In 1998 new data protection guidelines were enacted, as is described in the section on privacy, to help protect consumers and increase the adoption of e-commerce by reducing security fears.
• In May 2000 the eEurope Action Plan was launched with objectives of 'a cheaper, faster, more secure Internet; investing in people's skills and access; and stimulating the use of the Internet'. The Commission intends to increase Internet access relative to the USA, in order to make Europe more competitive.
• Also in May 2000 the Commission announced that it wants the supply of local loops, the copper cables that link homes to telephone exchanges, to be unbundled so that newer companies can compete with traditional telecommunications suppliers. The objective here is the provision of widespread broadband services as a major aim of the EU.
• In June 2000 an e-commerce directive was adopted by the European Union. Pullen and Robinson (2001) note that the most fundamental provision of the Act is in Article 3 which defines the principles of country of origin and mutual recognition. This means that any company trading in an EU member state is subject in that country to the laws of that country and not those of the other member states. This prevents the need for companies to adhere to specific advertising or data protection laws in the countries in which they operate.
The type of initiative launched by governments is highlighted by the launch in the UK
in September 1999 of a new 'UK online' campaign, a raft of initiatives and investment
E-government aimed at moving people, business and government itself online (e-government). E-envoy
The use of Internet posts and an e-minister have also been appointed. The prime minister said in 1999: technologies to provide government services to There is a revolution going on in our economy. A fundamental change, not a dot.com fad, citizens.
but a real transformation towards a knowledge economy. So, today, I am announcing a new campaign. Its goal is to get the UK on-line. To meet the three stretching targets we have set: for Britain to be the best place in the world for e-commerce, with universal access to the Internet and all Government services on the net. In short, the UK on-line campaign aims to get business, people and government on-line.
Specific targets have been set for the proportion of people and businesses that have access, including public access points for those who cannot currently afford the technology. Managers who are aware of these initiatives can tap into sources of funding for development or free training to support their online initiatives.
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