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E-Commerce in Bangladesh

Its Challenges And Concerns

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Dr. Forqan Uddin Ahmed :
Electronic Commerce (e-commerce) is more than just handling purchase, transaction and funds transfers through computer networks and Internet. E-commerce includes the tasks that support buying and selling of goods and services, and interactions between these tasks. E-commerce can facilitate internal interactions, improve customer relations and eliminate the constraints of place and time. E-commerce enables companies to close or reduce stores, reduce inventory requirements, and distribute products over internet.
Using e-commerce, the purchasers can select products from a Website, request approvals and forward orders through electronic processes. The seller can add orders to a database, check warehouse inventory and customer status, arrange delivery, and handle transactions all through electronic communications. E-commerce involves numerous institution (like government, merchants, manufacturers, suppliers, consumers, etc.), processes (like marketing, sales, payment, fulfillment, support etc.) and computer networks (like local networks, Internet, corporate and commercial networks).
E-commerce depends on a series of underlying infrastructures. Network Infrastructure covers the media required for moving information, and thus includes the Internet as well as cable television, telecommunications networks, and private corporate networks, Internet, extranet, etc. Production Infrastructure focuses on a company's products (soft goods and hard goods) and the items to create them. The concerned items are database, multimedia authoring, information production, manufacturing, etc.
Distribution Infrastructure helps to get the products and services to the customers. The concerned items are e-mail, database, on-line catalogs, networked communities, shipping infrastructure, etc.
Service Infrastructure handles such processes, as payments, customer support and security, and the associated items are credit cards, EDI, Digital Cash, E-mail, Web, etc. There are six major instruments of e-commerce as per the report of the World Trade Organization (WTO). They are Telephone, Fax, TV, Electronic Payment and Money Transfer Systems, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), Internet, Internets and Extranet.
Communication Infrastructures, network security, globalization, telecommunication services, skilled manpower, and appropriate rules and regulations are crucial for the growth of e-commerce in the country. Telecommunication is the basic information infrastructure for e-commerce. But the growth of this sector in Bangladesh was always inadequate to meet the demand of the nation, and it is much less than many of our neighboring countries. The major challenges that our data and telecom sector should meet urgently are: Increase in telephone density, development of high-speed backbone network, Internet connectivity through fiber-optic link, providing information age telecom services, legalizing Internet telephone services, improving management system, etc.
Commercial rights and legal environments are crucial to the form of trade conducted through the Internet over invisible national barriers. The role of government should provide legal framework for e-commerce so that domestic and international trade is allowed to expand their horizons; and basic rights such as privacy, intellectual property, and prevention of fraud and consumer protection should be taken care of.
There is no e-commerce law in Bangladesh yet. To make new cyber laws the following recommendation can be considered:
The relevant rules and regulations for customs, income tax, the penal code, telegraphy and telephony and other relevant rules should be modified to accept e-commerce documents. Laws to prevent criminal from gaining access to the networks and modifying data should be enacted, and encryption and digital signatures as enabling mechanisms for security of data should be prepared. Concept of electronic notaries, trusted third parties, and certification authorities should be properly addressed. It bill, as a comprehensive e-commerce law including computer misuse and crimes, on the patter of Electronic Transactions Act of Singapore may be prepared and passed.
Information age business personal should not only be capable in business activities; they need to be proficient in associated technologies, software protocols and standards. Effective measures should urgently be taken to modernize business education. Following recommendations can be made for the generation of skilled manpower in e-commerce in our country:
Computer education should be made compulsory for every graduate in commerce, business and management. Industries, banks, insurance companies, corporate business house etc. should appoint computer literate personnel as the in charge of MIS and computer departments. Universities should open academic programs like Business Information Technology, Electronic Commerce, and Financial Engineering in graduate and postgraduate levels, Diploma programs under the technical education board should be initiated for Business Information Technology, Electronic Commerce and Financial Engineering to generate skilled manpower for e-commerce at the grassroots level. In service training programs on computer and Information Technology should be conducted by the business organisations to keep the employee up to-date with the new development.
Reduced transaction costs, improved cash flow, reduced inventory level, higher information quality, increased operational efficiency, better customer service, increased ability to compete, improved trading partnership etc. with the help of e-commerce, the proper consumerism can be developed in the country. This is due to the fact that e-commerce helps both users and suppliers to protect their interests in a transparent manner. And thereby consumers' right can be protected. But the situation of the consumerism in our country is not satisfactory and Internet facilities and computerization are still in the infancy level. Though computer and information technology greatly accelerated production, distribution and management activities at work environment which forcing us to adapt the rhythm of nanosecond culture, a company's strategy must be robust and flexible enough to evolve, as the business conditions demands.
(Dr. Forqan Uddin Ahmed, Writer, Columnist & Researcher; e-mail: forqan.info@gmail.com)

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