Memorandum by the Institute for the Management
of Information Systems (IMIS)
The Institute for the Management of Information Systems
(IMIS) is the professional organisation for the management of
Information Technology, whether by IT professionals or, as is
increasingly the case, by user managers. It was formed in 1978
by a merger of the Data Processing Managers Association and the
Institute of Data Processing and changed its name to IMIS from
IDPM (the Institute of Data Processing Management) in 1997. It
has about 11,000 members, including students, overseas and practitioner
1. What needs to be done to create confidence
and stimulate electronic commerce?
e-Commerce is not synonymous with the Internet.
The Internet is not synonymous with the World Wide Web. e-Commerce,
the Internet and the Web are all evolving but they are not necessarily
e-Commerce is doing business electronically.
It involves a wide variety of technologies, analogue as well as
digital and is not new. The first conventions for international
cable traffic date from just after the US Civil War. The first
case on whether a cable authorisation is a signature is over 100
The Internet is that network of networks across
which transmissions can be made using protocols agreed through
the Internet Engineering Task Force. These also cover a wide variety
of technologies and techniques, including pre-determined routing
and physical security infrastructures. Networks using the latter
account for most of the investment in hardware, software and communications
facilities and around 90 per cent of transactions (including the
EDI supply chain systems of the US aerospace, retail and finance
Internet protocols also cover emerging technologies,
from Digital TV and Wireless through to new generation analogue
(necessary to handle very high band width using optical technology
and increasingly practical as hardware reliability reduces the
need for digital error checking).
The Web commonly refers to that subset of the
Internet which uses only packet-switched, any-to-any, delivery
"by what route is currently available" with no guarantees.
This subset carries barely 10 per cent of the business-to-business
transactions which flow over the Internet as a whole but does
account for almost all of current business-to-consumer traffic
as well as a wide variety of low cost e-mail, advertising and
information services. How long that domination will last, with
the growth of traffic over Digital TV and WAP technologies (which
need very different structures for optimum efficiency) is uncertain.
Until recently the "Internet" and
the "Web" were seen as attractive brand images. In consequence
Digital TV and WAP (for mobile phones etc) were seen as giving
access to the Web over the Internet. The problem is lack of confidence
in the use of low cost, low security, any-to-any, packet switched
services (as have been widely promoted over the past couple of
years) for anything more than e-mail, advertising, information
services and "discretionary spend" by technology enthusiasts.
These (from the sale of analyses of search habits,
through "denial of service" and other hacking attacks
to systematic credit card fraud, copying and piracy) are now becoming
rapidly more apparent. In consequence we have the first advertising
campaigns to distance Digital TV and WAP from the problems of
those running services over the Web.
The "solution" is for those wishing
to promote confidence to collect, collate and publish information
on quality of service (response times, delivery, payment security
etc) akin to that available for other services, from the physical
delivery of letters and parcels to the response times and reliability
of structured electronic data interchange services and messaging
More background to some of these points is given
in Appendix Aan article intended to help IT Managers improve
user expectations as to what can be delivered at what price and
to what timescale.
2. Does the European Commission's draft Action
Plan "eEurope: An Information Society for All" offer
a realistic means of promoting e-commerce in the EU?
It is largely irrelevant compared to the use
of regulatory and competition policy to encourage commercial suppliers
to improve quality of service and provide authentication, credit
checking, payment and dispute resolution routines. The sections
on education, training and social inclusion omit the need to achieve
economies of scale and ease of use necessary to enable affordable
access for the majority of society. IMIS strongly supports the
comments in EURIM Briefing 18 Reskilling Europe for the Information
3. Will codes of conduct and co-regulation
provide sufficient protection? Is there a case for intervention
by national governments and the EU?
IMIS believes that the same law should apply
online as offline, despite the problems this gives to some of
our members (see Appendix B). The reason for the difference between
the views of IMIS members and those of other computer professionals
is probably that Managers are more likely to have family responsibilities
as well as those for delivering results for their employers (whether
suppliers or users).
IMIS also agrees with the EURIM analyses, in
"There is a need to distinguish between
situations where both parties are acting in good faith but the
transaction fails to give satisfaction and the need to suppress
deceit, fraud and other malpractice. The latter cannot realistically
be left to self-regulation and requires frameworks for co-operation
across borders between statutory regulators and law enforcement
agencies . . ."
4. Do the institutions of national governments,
on the one hand, and the European Commission, the Council of Ministers
and the European Parliament, on the other, function with sufficient
flexibility and coherence to promote the EU's objectives in the
field of e-commerce?
IMIS' particular concern is that policy debate
appears to be dominated by a small group of dominant technology
and communications suppliers on one side and an equally small
group of dominant content providers on the other. The interests
of mainstream business and of consumers do not appear well represented.
Indeed the latter often appear to be "represented" by
self-appointed protectionist lobbies whose aim appears to be to
protect them from choice.
This problem is long-standing and will not be
solved unless and until Her Majesty's Goverment and the Commission
use commercial market research techniques (eg large-scale structured
telephone surveys to structured panels which are representative
of the target audiences) on a regular basis to identify the evolving
views, needs and priorities of both users and consumers (segmented
as necessary by geography, vertical market, type of purchase etc).
5. Should existing EU institutional structures
be changed, or new ones created, to improve policy development
IMIS believes that it is more important to encourage
and support the growth of organisations like EURIM, which cut
across organisational and political boundaries, than to seek structural
changes which are likely to be wrong before they are agreed.
6. How can structural change be brought about
fast enough to accommodate the growth of e-commerce?
e-Commerce has been run for many decades over
a variety of technologies and that mix continues to evolve. The
"Internet" (as viewed by the Internet Engineering Task
Force) is "merely" that latest stage of evolution of
the world's largest machine, the global telecoms network. As such
it embraces a wide range of protocols of which "any-to-any
packet switching" is only one.
Some members are already planning on the basis
that the current "ISP" and "Portal" business
models will be obsolete even before Digital TV and WAP protocols
transform the delivery routes and audiences for mass-market e-commerce.
Meanwhile business-to-business appears likely to remain dominated
by structured EDI concepts, albeit often using TCP/IP protocols
with webaccess for those new to the value chain.
IMIS is concerned lest change to the basic principles
of international trade to accommodate the problems of what may
prove a transient approach to a sub-set of e-commerce (low security,
any-to-any transmission) distorts the need for political, legal
and fiscal policy toward e-commerce to be technology neutral.
We are also concerned over the need to better distinguish between
skills and disciplines, including those related to the development
and use of new technology, which change little over time and those
where change is rapid and traditional approaches can no longer
21 February 2000