Report: Ohio biz, governments need Net

Ohio has a sufficient backbone for electronic commerce, but governments and businesses are not using it to the fullest, according to the first of three yearly reports on the state's readiness for global e-commerce.

The infrastructure is sufficient in cities and towns but is not in rural areas, where the population has not demanded it, said Jude Geist, program coordinator of the technology policy group of the Ohio Supercomputer Center, which is issuing the reports.

The Ecom-Ohio project (www.ecom-ohio.org), launched in the fall, compares regions of the state to others in the country to assess the state's infrastructure reliability and useage.

The main concern of the center, Geist said, is that small governments and businesses are not taking advantage of the network. He said it is most likely because businesses have fewer than five employees, and many small governments do not have knowledgeable staff or staff time to create World Wide Web sites.

"Education is going to be a big concern," he said. "We need to promote the benefits of electronic commerce to the businesses and governments."

The center is working on several recommendations, in addition to the proposed actions expressed in the report. He said one idea that could be implemented this summer would be to create county Web portals through which smaller governments could aggregate. He also said a gathering of business and government leaders would be helpful to get the word out on e-commerce benefits.

The report was created through several surveys, including business and education professionals, and from research on government and business Web sites. The center is reworking the survey process for next year, he said.

Gov. Bob Taft said he will appoint a panel to review the report to address its challenges.

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