Electronic commerce means conducting business using one of the many
electronic methods available, usually using telephones, computers or a combination of
both. Electronic commerce is not about the technology itself - it is about business using
these technologies. Some of the most common forms of electronic commerce have been around
for years. They include facsimiles, using a tone telephone to do banking, EFTPOS and video
Other forms of electronic commerce are also common, or will become
more common in the near future. Some of these are:
- smart cards;
- electronic faxing;
- Electronic Data Interchange (EDI);
- on-line directories;
- Internet conferencing etc.
All of these uses of technology are designed to make doing business
easier and more efficient. Communication is faster and more comprehensive and information
received over the Internet, for example, can be translated easily into another form.
2. What advantages does e-commerce offer my business?
ECommerce, if you make good use of it, can help your business:
- gain a higher profile, both locally and internationally;
- access new markets;
- reduce costs;
- be more accessible to your customers and also suppliers.
3. Are there any issues that I need to also be aware of?
Security and reliability: for business users, the Internet is not a
totally secure and reliable communications medium, although this is improving. In the
meantime, be cautious about sending sensitive information in an e-mail unless it is
Impact on business processes: using the Internet as a part of your
business operations will have an impact, for the better, on your existing business
processes, structures and organisation. In parallel with your Internet implementation,
make these other changes too. Seek advice from business and management consultants.
4. Glossary of some electronic commerce terms.
- ADDRESS: A unique name (or number)
identifying a computer user or computer is called an address. Addresses are used in
network communications in transmitting messages to a particular person or machine.
- BROWSER: Software that allows users of the
World Wide Web to view the text and graphical content.
- DOMAIN NAME: The unique name, often called
your "Internet address" or 'Web address", which identifies an Internet
site. Domain Names always have two or more parts separated by dots. The part on the left
is the most specific and the part on the right is the most general. A given machine may
have more than one Domain Name but a given Domain Name points to only one machine.
- EFTPOS: Electronic Funds Transfer at Point
Of Sale. An electronic method of making a payment to a retailer at the point of sale.
- EDI: Electronic Data Interchange is the
exchange of standardised document forms between computer systems for business use, such as
purchase orders and invoices. It is becoming less common.
- E-MAIL: Electronic Mail is a system which
allows you to send messages to other computer users. Mail is sent to a user's computer
account, identified by an electronic mail address.
- FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions is a
document about a subject that answers frequently asked questions about the subject.
- INTERNET: A very large network consisting
of interconnected computer networks that are able to communicate because they use a common
protocol called TCP/IP.
- INTRANET: Restricted use of the Internet
usually within one organisation. This uses passwords to prevent entry from outsiders.
- HYPERLINK: Highlighted word or a graphic
on a page on the World Wide Web which, when clicked on, leads to other documents,
organisations or individuals.
- ISP: Internet Service Provider is a
company that provides an intermediate link between a computer or a network and the
- LAN: Local Area Network is a network of
computers communicating over short distances in a restricted area, such as within a
business. Many LANs have connections to larger networks (see WAN).
- MODEM: MODulator/DEModulator is a device
that you connect to your computer and to a telephone line which allows the computer to
talk to other computers through the telephone system. Basically, modems do for computers
what a telephone does for humans.
- MULTIMEDIA: Documents that combine
multiple data types (eg text, graphics, scanned images, audio and video).
- NETIQUETTE: The etiquette of the Internet.
- NEWSGROUPS: A group of messages about a
specific subject of interest, which use e-mail to allow people to discuss their interests
(see also USENET).
- ONLINE DIRECTORIES: Electronic versions of
directories of information which are accessible on the Internet.
- SMART CARD: Small, plastic card of a
similar size to a credit card which stores information on an embedded microcomputer chip.
Used to store cash, values, identification details or other information.
- USENET: A world-wide system of discussion
groups with comments passed among hundreds of thousands of machines. Not all USENET
machines are on the Internet - maybe half. USENET is completely decentralised with over
10,000 discussion areas (see also NEWSGROUPS).
- WAN: Wide Area Network is a network of
computers not limited to systems in close proximity. A WAN often links a number of LANs
- WORLD WIDE WEB: The World Wide Web is like
opening a giant encyclopaedia that allows you to see text, images, sounds and animation on
computers around the world. Online "pages" of the Web are connected through
hyperlinks that allow you to explore material on a given topic by simply clicking a mouse.