Hands-off approach helps e-commerce flourish, panel says

A decade after President Clinton announced the Framework for Global Electronic Commerce, e-commerce has exploded, and a major reason for its success is the government’s hands-off approach to regulating it, a panel said today.

E-commerce has flourished from the outset because it does not face taxing, heavy regulations and a Federal Communications Commission-like board that controls content, said Ira Magaziner, the primary author of the e-commerce framework. He spoke today as a member of a panel at the Software and Information Industry Association meeting in Washington.

Back in 1997, officials realized they could not predict the Internet’s potential, and they would be remiss to inhibit it, Magaziner said. The government still has a hard time determining when it should step in and when it should let the Internet evolve on its own, he added.

Businesses have embraced e-commerce's opportunities. Jamie Estrada, acting assistant secretary for manufacturing and services at the Commerce Department, said the Internet enables businesses to easily cut costs and expand their customer base worldwide.

Statistics underscore e-commerce's success. Online retail sales in the first quarter of 2007 were estimated at $999.5 billion, an 18.4 percent jump from the first quarter of 2006, while overall retail sales increased 3.2 percent, according to the Census Bureau surveys.

The most significant e-commerce developments since 1997 include Google, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry and sites with user-generated content.

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