|Enabling e-commerce in Europe’s less favoured regions|
|Bringing e-commerce to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Europe’s less favoured regions is the IST project LAURA with its organisational know-how and e-business software that will help SMEs enter new and bigger markets.
“Less favoured regions in Europe do not have the ability to access the big markets in Europe and although there are lots of products which are needed by these bigger developed markets, the problem is how to get these needed products [from SMEs in these regions] to market,” explains Nick Brehmer from M-BIS in Germany, part of the LAURA project.
In response LAURA worked closely with organisations from different industrial sectors in less favoured areas of the South-Central region in Bulgaria, Messina and Epirus in Greece, and Saxony-Anhalt in Germany, to clearly identify the current state and the future needs for e-commerce. The sectors chosen were agriculture and food, wood and furniture, construction and tourism.
The result was “a platform that can be used by small and medium-sized enterprise support organisations to enable companies,” says Brehmer. “But the software is not the only thing you have to provide. It’s also the organisation and the ability how to do it because if you don’t have the market you usually don’t know how to enter other markets.”
The platform was built along component-oriented software development lines that allows for basic e-business functionality while allowing the later addition of more advanced and business-specific functions. For instance, Brehmer cites the negotiation tool as one of the highlights of their project’s results. It supports negotiation of contracts between regions in different countries with their differing legal systems and languages.
The ease of adopting LAURA depends on the level of IT literacy in the SME and region. “For instance, the eastern part of Germany is a less-favoured region,” says Brehmer, “but is more advanced than some regions of Bulgaria and in Germany it is common to use IT in some form.” In addition, east German SMEs usually have Internet access and/or a website. In such cases, he says, adding an e-shop or the platform is not a problem, it is more a question of supporting their e-marketing or how they present products.
But in the Bulgarian regions where the companies have no or slow Internet access, the work was done by the support centres there. Beginning with a website, these centres established the e-shop and supported the SMEs in working with the new system so that they could create new business.
In designing LAURA one of the requirements was to make sure the system was self explaining, explains Brehmer. “It is customisable and the whole [LAURA] system should look like the Web application the enterprise already has, so the customer thinks it’s fully integrated, even though the shop system and website are separate.”
Currently used by quite a number of companies in Germany, Bulgaria and Greece, there has been “very positive feedback,” concludes Brehmer. “This feedback drove us to extend the LAURA system which now comprises production, sales, marketing, and project management modules for companies collaborating in supply chains.”
Contact : Nick Brehmer
D-39106 Magdeburg / Germany
Marseille,01 31 2005
Club de l'arche