EC group forms new chapter

CommerceNet, a nonprofit consortium of IT companies and Internet service providers, has
formed a Washington chapter to promote federal EC initiatives.


The new CommerceNet Northeast group is working with officials from the General Services
Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Social Security
Administration, the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Defense Logistics Agency and
NASA to launch a series of pilot programs using the Internet to handle all aspects of
electronic procurement.


"We're looking at ways to operate at the grassroots level and work with government
agencies on how they want to deliver information and reach regional suppliers and
customers," said Ron Parsons, director of CommerceNet Northeast, at a recent
Washington press conference.


He said the group wants to create pilots, generate research and form joint ventures
among companies.


Parsons said the CommerceNet Northeast programs will meet the administration's Internet
procurement goals.


Those goals include responding to last month's White House EC task force call for
making the Internet a free-trade zone with industry-chosen technology and contracting
standards.


The group also is eager to take advantage of the government's expanded EC strategy.
Originally, President Clinton ordered all agencies to move to electronic data interchange
and support a governmentwide procurement network based on the ANSI X12 EDI implementation
conventions.


But the White House now endorses all kinds of automated procurement transactions,
ranging from credit card buys to full blown EDI.


G. Martin Wagner, assistant GSA commissioner for governmentwide policy, said agencies
have devised a variety of electronic commerce systems such as GSA Advantage, which
provides users access to all of the Multiple-Award Schedule contracts.


But Wagner said the systems will remain little used until users have access to
integrated security and search engine tools.


"We need cryptography, digital signature and firewall technology along with better
integration tools. We need full sets of integrated products that appear as one product to
users," Wagner said.


Randall Whiting, CommerceNet's president, said the Washington chapter will conduct
studies and develop test programs for improving systems architectures, financial services,
network services and security. But the group's success will depend on transforming the
Internet from an acquisition aid into an essential buying tool, Whiting said.


"We need to make the Internet much easier to use, more trusted and more pervasive.
We have to get it into the hands of people doing real business," Whiting said.
"Only when we apply browsers, search engines and security features to business
applications does it have value."


More information about CommerceNet's programs is on the organization's World Wide Web
site at http://www.commerce.net.


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