Digital economy needs midsize buys on Net to emerge as big deal

It has been a year since the Commerce Department posted its report about the
emerging digital economy at
  Such reports usually predict that it will soon become standard procedure to browse
the Net for tank parts or paper clips. Have the reports made any difference in everyday
government procurement?

The answer is yes for big buys and small-quantity hardware or software orders. But for
medium-size orders or low-tech items such as office supplies, the answer is no, but maybe

Internet commerce has arrived at the institutional level, not at the office level.
Purchasing officers know where to turn for their big needs. They put a solicitation in
Commerce Business Daily for pickup by online services that match buyers and suppliers.
Look at for an example of how it works.

At the low end, IMPAC credit cards rule. Government IMPAC buyers can order up to
$10,000 worth of computers and accessories from many resellers’ Web sites.

The small orders and the IMPAC approach represent the true spirit of online commerce.
They involve browsing Web catalogs, placing orders, paying and even tracking shipments

If the digital economy is to emerge as an everyday resource for agencies, this small
model needs both modification and expansion. A big bid-big buy approach is unnecessary.

Here’s what stands in the way of moving midsize agency buys to the Internet:

Here are several resources for ramping up online buying procedures:

Shawn P. McCarthy designs search and navigation products for a Web search engine
provider. E-mail him at

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