USAID site helps companies go global

AID's Peter Lampesis, right, and Bob Moorman are helping U.S. companies connect with business partners in developing nations via the Web.

Dan Gross

A federal Web site is helping businesses become multinational, even if they don't have multibillion-dollar portfolios.

Small and midsize companies in the United States can meet potential business partners in developing countries and strike business deals through the Agency for International Development's Global Trade & Technology Network program. The agency has developed a Web portal, at trade.usgtn.net, that lets U.S. and foreign businesses offer products and services, initiate purchases and explore partnerships, said Peter Lampesis, team leader for GTN's Energy and Technology activities, with USAID's Office of Business Development.

Once companies are linked via the system, GTN staff provide trade, investment and financial advice.

GTN helps firms in all industry sectors, but its main focus is on environment, energy, IT, communications, agriculture and health care technologies.

It operates in the United States and 37 developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe.

The portal, which was launched in November 2001, lets companies register on the Web site and set up accounts. Users can browse a database that contains information about other companies and request contact with them, said Bob Moorman, information technology manager, Global Technology Network.

Companies can view requests for quotations and post notices of goods and services they offer, Moorman said.

The system performs intelligent matchmaking. If the criteria in a company's requests for quotations matches the sale notice of another company, the two are notified via e-mail, he said.

AID has helped companies complete about 75 transactions this year and wants to reach 100 by October.

About 16,000 companies are registered, and roughly 13 more join each day, he said.

Before the system went on the Web, the program's trade representatives kept track of companies manually and matched their requirements individually using Lotus Notes. Agency managers had to maintain individual spreadsheets and had to compare numerous spreadsheets to prepare agencywide reports.

The portal was developed by Edelman Communications International of Washington and implemented by International Executive Service Corps, a nonprofit business development organization based in Stamford, Conn.

Two Compaq ProLiant ML370 servers running Microsoft Windows 2000, SQL Server 2000 and Exchange 2000 Server support the system's database and messaging features, Lampesis said. Two ProLiant DL360 servers running Internet Information Server 5.0 support Web presentation.

The system develops and updates profiles based on users' interest in RFQs, sectors, countries and regions. Users can also track specific RFQs.

Moorman said the agency is considering development of additional tools for analysis and retrieval such as identifying firms by ZIP code, county and region.

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