The EU is supporting several ambitious electronic commerce projects with a budget of Ecu1.3 million and has launched the first in the health sector.
The aim is to ease purchasing by hospitals and health authorities, European Commission officials said.
The initiative - called Electronic Commerce in the Open Marketplace and Industry Sector (Ecomis)- was agreed in July between the EC and the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), and aims to build an open market for ecommerce.
"With this initiative, we are working towards an open platform in Europe for standardisation of electronic commerce. This will increase competition for ecommerce in the marketplace," said EC scientific officer Antonio Conte.
"We believe that electronic commerce cuts across many areas of interest to the Commission, such as telecommunications and information technology. All electronic commerce initiatives supported by the Commission will require coordination from various departments," he said.
"This will ensure that initiatives will not only be taken in industry, but in any areas that will benefit, for example textiles and tourism," he said.
The first phase of the initiative, a project called Echop (European Ecommerce for Hospital Procurement), is intended to define an open standard for the health sector and its suppliers, and began with a practical workshop on 10 September.
The health project is supported by Citius Belgium, an ecommerce service provider and a subsidiary of telco Belgacom. A second workshop will be held at the end of September.
John Ketchell, director of CEN's Information Society Standardisation System, said: "Common standards allow for increased competition. Electronic commerce and information technology are big business. Within European telecommunications, electronic commerce has made its presence felt. With information technology, business has been more US driven."
"The requirements of European SMEs (small and medium enterprises), are not being recognised on a global scale. Our aim at CEN is to bridge the gap between European standardisation and worldwide business," he went on.
There are two phases of Ecomis - first, to set up an awareness campaign, with European business associations, to identify areas of development within SMEs.
The second phase will be related to specific projects in industry sectors, though these are not yet finalised outside healthcare. ECOMIS follows on from the success of Midas, which raised awareness within industries of the benefits of ecommerce.
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