One London council has leapfrogged over other sites in order to drive e-commerce and e-government ahead
Prime Minister Tony Blair's determination to drive through e-government and e-commerce is inspiring some local authorities to combine the two, writes Mike Simons.
Hackney Council in east London is backing HackneyConnect, a scheme which aims to both improve IT skills in the borough and help local businesses develop their e-commerce operations and use the Internet profitably for transactions.
Scheduled to start operating in January 2001, HackneyConnect will have two operating arms - Community Networks and a Trade Opportunities Portal (TOP) - for use by business.
Project manager Ade Basimi said, "We are trying to leapfrog over what is currently on offer from other councils.
"We looked at other sites and found they were rather two-dimensional."
The project build is scheduled to start next month, with initial plans to offer a limited range of services before HackneyConnect develops into a fully transactional site later next year.
Basimi makes no apology for this approach. "If we sit back and wait to do a 'Big Bang', we'll never get started," he pointed out.
The aim is to give everyone in the local community quick and easy access to the Internet and local and global information - via PC, TV and kiosks. There will be a heavy emphasis on improving IT skills in the borough and making its workforce more employable in the digital age.
For business, the focus is on encouraging companies to expand and use the Internet for business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions.
The project was planned after research into what local businesses and the community wanted from the venture.
Training and support will feature strongly and a helpdesk will provide support, while a dedicated messaging centre will supply online assistance and solutions.
Children will also be given a high degree of protection through the latest screening technology.
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UK Government (through the Single Regeneration Budget); European Community (through the European Research and Development Fund) ; Heart of Hackney; Renaisi; Guildhall University; London Borough of Hackney; Hackney Chamber of Commerce; North London Development Agency