Select Committee on European Union Written Evidence

Memorandum by Mr Peter Apostolou, People-Energy

  1.  I do not think anything needs to be done to create confidence and stimulate e-commerce usage. If you look at the Annex A provided you will note that confidence is self perpetuating as the technology is utilised more and more.

  Annex A shows that the uptake and use of e-commerce is multiplying at an exponential rate. These figures are based on the American Internet usage being a little more advanced than the rest of the world's. As we generally know whatever happens in America happens over here later.

  More and more people are using the Internet. More and more people are purchasing goods over the Internet and the Internet user profile are becoming more and more the average profile rather than having the technical bias it used to. More and more money is being transacted over the Internet, in the areas of business to business and consumer.

  One area that is important to confidence is that of Secure Electronic Transactions (SET). Technology that allows the encryption of messages on their journey across the Internet. Obviously the more secure the Internet is the more confident people will be of using it.

  If the Internet is effective and makes things easier people and businesses will use it more and more without the necessity for outside intervention.

  2.  N/A.

  3.  Will codes of conduct and co-regulation provide sufficient protection? Is there a case for intervention by national governments and EU.

  There will without a shadow of doubt be Government intervention. We can see many ways in which e-commerce and the Internet will change the way we work company to company, nationally and internationally. Indeed it is the governments who I feel are going to have a very difficult time in implementing policy as the internet and e-commerce change very much the way we live, communicate and transact through our daily lives. Security issues ranging from individual to national is very big.

  The American federal government has already classified encryption technology as munitions and have stated that they must have the keys to unlock any type of encryption. The reasons for this are obvious in terms of national security. I can see a time when the same will have to be done by the European governments.

  With the recent demonstrations and organisations by groups such as "reclaim the streets" Internet security is highlighted by the fact most of the groups organised themselves by using the Internet. Can governments build any type of secure infrastructure if a virus such as the "Love bug" can create havoc—very quickly through the world?

  Another area is: the Internet seems to have no regard for a national border or physical division of regions. What implication does this have for trade, crime and other areas? There are definite needs for a government to put in some sort of legislation. The biggest problem is that it is very difficult to know where to start and what else may need to be incorporated as time goes on.

  4.  My immediate response to this question is definitely not. The question I would raise is can they be flexible enough. Unfortunately it is much easier to do things in a different way with this medium. This allows the by-passing of much of the bureaucracy currently involved. My feeling is that the Internet will necessitate governments and organisations to be far more flexible than they currently are.

  I feel this is the major task faced by all organisations. The bigger the organisation the bigger the task.

  5.  I am unaware of the EU's existing internal structure in detail. However, everything to do with the EU has the air of major bureaucracy and therefore will probably need a major restructure. My answer would be a major yes.

  6.  With great difficulty! The only way is to keep an extremely close watch on the development and have the ability to foretell the way some things will move. Whereas this is possible to a certain extent it is also worthwhile bearing in mind that there are many things that right now would be almost impossible to predict and take into account.

  The Internet and e-commerce favour the less bureaucratically involved, hence the reason why small and previously non-existent companies) are taking a major stake in the e-commerce arena.

  Governments and large organisations have a major job to do, there is the possibility that current methods will become obsolete and even current organisations' existence be threatened with the changes that are going to take place.

9 March 2000

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