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Ararat businesses to embrace e-commerce

11 March 2000

Ararat businesses are about to launch into 21st century technology and the era of e- commerce under a new strategy being implemented by Ararat Rural City Council. E-commerce is the process of business via the World Wide Web, and can be as simple as having an e-mail facility or as complex as conducting complete electronic transactions. Ararat Rural City economic development manager Ivan Surridge said businesses are increasingly turning to electronic commerce in the quest to improve customer service and break down economic and geographical boundaries. "Obstacles that traditionally deterred new entrants to markets are being substantially lowered in an electronic trading environment," he said.

In a project unique to Ararat six businesses will be selected to receive an assistance package that will guide them through the e- commerce process at no direct cost to them. "The package will provide one-on- one assistance in the development and implementation of e-commerce opportunities for each business," Mr. Surridge said. "We are giving Ararat businesses the opportunity to become leaders in this field, to be among the first out on the starting block." Those who get on board early will reap the benefits in the future." The offer is open to all business sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing, retail and service industries.

The businesses selected will be promoted as examples of the effective use of e-commerce. "Importantly, these opportunities for business are all available at virtually no set up cost, providing a saving of thousands of dollars," Mr Surridge said. Ararat Regional Business Association president Leigh Robinson said he expected the e- commerce proposal to gain a mixed reaction from Ararat businesses. "Some will accept the challenge, some won't," he said. "Some businesses are not keen to become computerised at all, let alone delve into the world of e- commerce." "There's no doubt it's the way of the future and Ararat would become a great retailing centre if people would embrace it." He said the great advantage of e- commerce is that it brings rural areas into line with what the rest of the world is doing, allowing purchases no matter what part of the world the customer comes from. Other aspects of the strategy include an upgrade of the Ararat Online Community website, the first of it's kind in Western Victoria; workshops for the 80 businesses taking part in Ararat online, teaching them how to update their web page from home; the promotion of the Ararat website to the world; a series of free workshops and training sessions; direct assistance in developing and updating websites for the Ararat Community Enterprise Centre at the Cyberwalk Cafe.

Ararat Rural city Council has reached an agreement with the chamber of Electronic Commerce, located at the Greenhill Enterprise Centre in Ballarat, for the redevelopment and ongoing maintenance of the Ararat On-Line website project. Ararat On-Line will now be located on Western Victoria's newly established web port, which is the regions first point of electronic contact. Ararat Rural City Council has also applied for a share of $1.3 million on offer from the state government for developing e- commerce strategies.

State and Regional Development minister John Brumby said approved local councils would be offered up to $45 000 for e-commerce development under project called Victorian E-Commerce Early Movers assistance scheme. (VEEM) "We accept significant interest from councils in rural and regional Victoria, as e-commerce is ideally suited to companies located outside large central business districts," Mr Brumby said.

Applications for funding under the VEEM program will be assessed on a case by case basis by an independent panel, and the government will provide up to $3 for every dollar contributed by local councils, to a maximum of $45,000.

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