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E-commerce key to knowledge economy - Labour

2000 web site"Labour will convene a summit within the first six months of taking office to develop a comprehensive e-commerce strategy in partnership with industry," Labour commerce spokesperson Paul Swain said today.

Among those who will be invited to attend will be representatives of the hardware, software, research, telecommunications, and education and training sectors. The summit is part of our e-commerce policy - "Labour On Line" - to be announced next month.

The policy will not be prescriptive. Instead it will identify the issues an e-commerce strategy should address and the role a modern, progressive government should play in its development.

"E-commerce represents a huge opportunity for New Zealand. It eliminates the problems of geographical distance by bringing both parties to a transaction as close to each other as they are to their computer screens.

"While electronic commerce covers a broad spectrum of activities [e-mail, electronic funds transfer, smart cards etc] it is the potential of the internet to expand New Zealand's economic base that demands an active response from government.

"There is much work to be done. As of April this year, 40 percent of New Zealand's top 500 companies did not even have a web site much less the infrastructure to gain the commercial advantages the internet can offer.

"The internet can create demand for new products and services, reduce input and compliance costs for business, increase the customer base and generate new, flexible business structures.

"Labour is most concerned that other countries are moving ahead much faster on this issue. The lack of any government strategy to lift our game will only see us fall further behind the pack.

"There is an urgent need for vision and leadership which is what an incoming Labour Government will provide. While individual firms will need to make their own decisions about the extent to which they want to invest in this new technology, the Government has a key role to play in promoting its development," Mr Swain said.

Contributions a Government could make include:
· Promoting an agreed national e-commerce strategy.
· Ensuring information is available for potential users of the new technologies.
· Insisting that government is a model user of e-commerce, including the development of a "single window" government service delivery system and a unified e-commerce based purchasing regime for all government agencies.
· Addressing both at home and abroad issues such as intellectual property rights, consumer protection, tax, encryption and security.
· Promoting foreign investment in technology and research and development.

"Labour's e-commerce policy is integral to our campaign to reduce New Zealand's over-reliance on commodity exports and to promote a more sophisticated and diverse economy," Mr Swain said.

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