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Northern e-commerce survey.

The Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce is eager to learn just how widespread e-commerce is in the city, and a survey going out to its membership in early February may offer the insight the business agency is looking for.

Funded by the chamber of commerce, FedNor, the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and Human Resources Development Canada; and conducted by the Institute for Global Entrepreneurship and Electronic Commerce (Confederation College), the survey is aimed at identifying current e-commerce trends in Thunder Bay. Primarily, the survey will attempt to measure the extent and level of e-commerce usage by city businesses, and to summarize their experiences to date.

Although the survey will be distributed to member businesses through the chambers monthly newsletter, chamber of commerce President Mary Long Irwin says participation isn't limited to chamber of commerce members.

"It's for members or any other business," Long Irwin says; "We're looking at trying to find out how many businesses use e-commerce and how much is purchased in. Thunder Bay, in Ontario, in Canada and out side (the country)."

For the purpose of the survey, Long Irwin says "e-commerce" is being defined as any task done via the Internet for business purpopes, whether it be buying, selling or searching for business opportunities.

"If an organization is involved in carrying out business-related tasks we want to know what types of business (is being done)," she says. "We want to know who has Internet access and e-mail and how much it is used. What are they using it for? Are they searching for suppliers?"

The surrey, she adds, will allow the chamber to get a handle on how many local firms are using computers for business regularly, how many occasionally use computers for business, and how many don't use computers at all.

She says more and more businesses are turning to the Internet to buy and sell their products, and Thunder Bay firms need to keep up if they want to stay competitive.

"There is still a lot being bought by a handshake, but e-business is growing. Eighty per cent of the growth in the community will come from within, so we have to make sure we are competitive."

Participants are asked to indicate the kinds of business processes for which computers are used, how often, and for what purposes. Participants are also asked to gauge the importance of e-commerce to their business in the past 12 months and to forecast the amount of money the business plans to invest in e-commerce in the coming year.

With about 1,400 surveys making their way to local businesses, Long Irwin is hoping between 800 and 1,000 completed surveys will be returned by early March.

"That will give us a more comprehensive idea of what's going on," she says, adding the results will be compared to e-commerce trends in other communities to illustrate how Thunder Bay businesses are measuring up.

The results of the survey will be available within four to six months, and depending on the findings, the chamber of commerce will follow up with training and support.

The chamber will distribute follow-up surveys in the spring of 2002 and 2003 to again poll businesses on their e-commerce practices. In the meantime, Graham Clayton, the director of the Institute of Global Entrepreneurship and Electronic Commerce and the survey's author, is looking to replicate the survey in other Northern Ontario communities in order to get an overall e-commerce picture for the North.
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:GOULIQUER, DIANNE
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Feb 1, 2001
Words:577
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