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Monday, December 11, 2000

Net police and cyber lawyers will soon be here

E-commerce is not a term now known only to just a few persons but has become a popular business media, globally. The e-commerce envelops business starting from advertisement, marketing, sale or purchase of the product, money transactions, revenue generation and a lot more. Business in the form of e-tailers, e-malls, auction sites are just a few named here.

All kinds of products can be traded through e-commerce. The product could be physical entities like books, CDs, electronic component, computer hardware, machines, automobile parts or digital formats such as software, audio/video file, reports and computer games. Beyond these, various services like online trading of securities, insurance brokerage, finance of car or house, travel and hotel reservations and consultancy services be provided. Even in some cases, a site can generate revenue by putting up advertisements, offer subscriptions, market survey, giving out recommendations to consumers, and providing information about relevant business sites, customer tracking (through cookies), etc. The e-business may even have to create customised profiles for individual requirements.


E- commerce jobs are challenging for technical persons. E-commerce education requires a thorough background of business, its policies, market area, the class of customer at which a business is aimed, the methods of revenue generation, and thorough market survey of the similar product. Besides these, customer preference is also given emphasis during the imparting of e-commerce education. The person looking after an e-commerce site is also trained to acquire some good recommendations of the product and develop graphical display for the sale of the product, relative performance of the similar product to woo customers.

The Information Technology (IT) forms a backbone of the e-commerce. It requires knowledge in the area of software servers, like http, application, database servers and operating systems. The maintenance of the server requires adequate knowledge of the said components. The hardware acumen like I/O subsystems, firewalls, and routers are a must for e-commerce education. Detailed information regarding various payment services is also given to the person learning e-commerce. The payment services include Secure Electronic Transactions (SET) for credit cards, digital cheque and e-cash. An e-commerce specialist is well trained in the area of security that is fundamental for an e-business siteís operation. Various aspects of the security are to be managed viz, mutual authentication of the parties involved in the transactions, protection of the confidentiality of the customer information, like credit card numbers and protection of the information on the server of the site from unauthorised user. A proper education in this area helps to make the transaction secure and the e-business site to be out of hackersí reach.

Another face of e-commerce education is the legal issue. The determination of jurisdiction a e-commerce transaction is a hot issue. The laws are still not very clear in this regard. If a person in India buys a computer from USA based e-tailer, which turns out to be defective, to which court should he go in case the e-tailer refuses to replace or refund.

Similarly, other issues like contract negotiations are digitally signed and the parties are mutually authenticated. Although the digital signatures are less likely to be forged than the physical signature yet these are still not acceptable by the law of the land.

The awareness about the strength of encryption should be made public and a need for a separate cyber law should be thought of. The Internet police and cyber lawyers trained in e-commerce applications, encryption methods, virtual transaction of money and cyber laws are going to be promising careers in days to come.

With the e-commerce activities expected to rise further, it has to be taken up seriously. Taxation and regulation is another issue which economist may find interesting. The method of taxation and regulation of e-business requires immediate attention. Trade on the Net is beyond barrier and with the use of virtual money the regulation is becoming difficult.

The non-compliance of the regulation may incur heavy loss to the government in the form of taxes. The need to develop a separate system of taxation for e-business should be given a serious thought. As a career, the person will be in demand since e-commerce will change with the growth of the technology and innovation in the regulation and taxation will be a continuous process.

Pricing strategies are important in the dynamic markets such as auctions. A person locking after cost and work accountancy may find challenging opportunities at the auction site. The pricing is also important when an e-business site sell diversified items retailed or traded on wholesale basis.

Marketing and sales personnel have to equip themselves with the new world of e-commerce. More efficient techniques are needed to enhance the customerís shopping experience. They have to learn from the past history and the navigational pattern to understand the need of the customer. An adaptable and dynamic customisation is required to suit the customer.

If a person is operating on a low bandwidth, the site should send summarised text-only description of the products, whereas the person with high bandwidth connection may be sent coloured graphics and more extensive descriptions. Marketing can be made easy by developing software agents for the sale of the product. Based on the profile of the customer, the agent can draw the attention of the customer about the availability of the item within the budget of the customer. Similarly, successful marketing can be done through e-mall by developing a recommender agent, who guides the customer to find the choice and range of the desired products and its pros and cons. Various courses like the Internet marketing, logistics, international business, business models in e-commerce, electronic channels of distribution, telecommunication and technology policy, management of supply chains, computer networks and information systems are already appended in the MBA curriculum of reputed institutes.

The job is still more challenging for technical persons. Other than looking after the issues like privacy of the customer, encryption methods, maintenance of the software servers (like http, database servers), security of the site, network hardware, secure electronic transactions, a constant need of speedy opening of the site is continuously in demand. The surfer becomes impatient if the site takes more time to open, and it is most likely that the person may take the business elsewhere. The performance problem is likely to worsen with the increase in the number of wireless users and new interfaces, such as voice user interface to e- commerce site. These kinds of interfaces will enable the customers to access the site in many different conditions and situations. With the continuous growth in the facilities on the Net, the performance management will be an upcoming issue for the technocrats.

The concept of virtual money is also gaining momentum. The money can be sent through e-mail (PayPal.com) or cellular phone (Tele-Vend.com) that turns the mobile into a credit card. Beenz.com prints money like a bean counter. Beenz are not only good as cash but have many advantage over it as this can travel the Web. Many such user-friendly schemes are most likely to come up which will not only facilitate the users to transact but also will be more secure. An orientation of e-commerce workforce towards cryptography and accounting will help the e-commerce to prosper further.

ó Vishal Verma

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