Online marketing to feds gets creative

Online marketing to feds gets creative

Resellers come up with new portal gimmicks to attract federal buyers

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

Two online resellers are trying different but novel tactics to lure agency buyers to their commerce portals.


Smallbizmall.gov is a government domain portal for an 8(a) commercial site that will eventually have public-key infrastructure security for purchases.


Pulsar Data Systems Inc. of Lanham, Md., is giving smart cards and readers to qualified government buyers to promote its secure commerce site, at www.pulsardata.com.

'We think that when these things get on people's desks, [smart cards] will gain validity,' said Bob Tompkins, director of information technology product sales for the subsidiary of Litronic Inc. of Irvine, Calif., which sells smart card-enabled security products.

Meanwhile, General Services Administration has formed a partnership with a small Virginia company to open an online shopping center at www.smallbizmall.gov for businesses that participate in Small Business Administration programs. Ceka Technologies Inc. of Vienna, Va., is the first commercial entity to operate a site in the .gov domain.

Pulsar Data launched its site during the recent e-Gov 2000 trade show in Washington. 'What's setting us apart is the smart card,' Tompkins said.

The site uses a public-key infrastructure to authenticate users and secure transactions. Private keys are maintained on smart cards that Pulsar Data configures and gives away with readers, free to qualified buyers.

'We're looking at purchasing people who have authority to spend money with us,' Tompkins said.

The company claims the site is more secure than the majority of Web commerce sites because it uses the 128-bit Triple Data Encryption Standard algorithm rather than 64-bit Secure Sockets Layer browser encryption.

The 8K smart card comes from European manufacturer Schlumberger Ltd. The external reader is Litronic's NetSignia 210, which connects via a serial port to a PC running Microsoft Windows 9x or Windows NT 4.0. It sells for $89.

Take your pick

The Pulsar Data site offers 250,000 products from companies with blanket purchasing agreements, GSA schedule contracts or other government buying vehicles.

The Smallbizmall opened last year as a prototype small-business commerce site developed by Ceka and Onlinesuppliers.com Corp., another 8(a) business in Vienna. The idea was to help small businesses compete online with large ones for agency IT purchases.

GSA gave the site a five-year contract to develop the program. After a nine-company pilot in April, the site began full operation last month. It is open to all 165 8(a) companies that hold GSA Federal Acquisition Services for Technology contracts.

GSA promotes the FAST contracts as a way for government buyers to meet their requirements for purchasing from 8(a) vendors and to make sole-source purchases.

The center charges buyers a 1 percent contract access fee and an additional 0.5 percent for transactions done through www.smallbizmall.gov, which is free for vendors.

The mall site is a government-domain portal for www.8amall.com, a commercial site that hosts transactions of up to $3 million. Credit card purchases can be made online; others require paper forms.

Beginning in August, the site will automatically fill out electronic versions of some government purchase orders, including GSA Form 300, Defense Department DD 1155 and Standard Form 1449, when purchases are selected. But the forms then must be printed and faxed.

Ceka deputy program manager Mark E. Tello said the site eventually will replace all paper and use digital certificates and a public-key infrastructure for online transactions.

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