Already a billion-dollar industry and still growing fast, e-business is not only set to revolutionize the way the world trades goods and services, but has enormous potential to open up new opportunities for local small and medium enterprises in the developing world, bringing economic prosperity to communities which, until now, have been confined to the periphery of potentially lucrative global and regional markets.
ITU activities in the field of e-business range from important standardization work that will provide emerging systems with the robust security and privacy protection features necessary to foster public confidence in online transactions, to hands-on development projects that aim to establish effective e-commerce networks in under-served parts of the world.
Technical standardization activities are coordinated under the umbrella of the GII Project, led by ITU-T Study Group 16. Areas of responsibility include coordination, general framework development, security, protocol development, service management and development of supporting software.
In 2000, ITU updated its ITU-T X.509 public key and attribute certificate standard with the aim of improving the environment for business-to-business (B2B) transactions, setting out a framework for privilege management infrastructure and improving standards for the attribute certificates which define user access privileges. The Union also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on electronic business with a number of other key global standardization bodies, with a view to fostering closer collaboration on new operational elements. Within the framework of this MoU, ITU convened a Business Object Summit designed to streamline data-sharing capabilities between the signatory organizations.
In the field of telecommunication development, meanwhile, ITU’s Electronic Commerce for Developing Countries (EC-DC) project was extended to more than 100 countries across five continents during the course of the year, making it one of the largest deployments of e-business infrastructure anywhere in the world. The project offers secure e-business solutions to developing countries under affordable conditions, through the pooling and sharing of available resources. It also provides an easy e-business start-up solution for entrepreneurs, offering first-class security and advanced services
through non-exclusive arrangements with industry partners. Besides helping developing nations build effective e-business frameworks and implement basic infrastructure, the project also addresses issues of gender equality, human resources development and special needs assistance to the world’s poorest communities.
Through a Partnership Agreement between ITU, the Geneva World Trade Centre and World Internet Secure Key (WISeKey), a Swiss online security specialist, the EC-DC project has to date attracted in-kind contributions of more than USD 7 million from key strategic partners, who contribute facilitating technologies and services to EC-DC participating countries. The EC-DC World Internet Secure Infrastructure was launched in November 2000, during a 3-day workshop which attracted more than 500 participants from 128 countries.