Bill Clinton has called for governments worldwide to promote global Ecommerce, advocating a hands-off approach to the Internet.
The US government's latest policy document, released last week, is a follow up to last year's Framework for Electronic Commerce. It reaffirms the administration's earlier commitment not to regulate the Internet, but to allow the industry to issue guidelines itself.
"We will do nothing that undermines the capacity of emerging technologies to lift the lives of ordinary Americans. And, secondly, in so far as we can, we will help to create an environment which will enhance the likelihood of success," said Clinton.
However, he called for more consumer protection on the Internet and, as a result, has appointed Bill Daley, US Secretary of Commerce, to work with the Federal Trade Commission and other agencies, industry groups and consumer advocates, to develop new approaches to consumer protection.
"People should get what they pay for online, and it should be easy to get redress if they don't. We must give consumers the same protection in our virtual mall that they now get at the shopping mall," Clinton added.
Another key plank in the new policy is the promise to include developing countries in the Internet revolution. Madeleine Albright, US secretary of state, will head a new programme to that end.
The US government also said it would build initiatives to stimulate small businesses to go online and to increase private sector investment in high-speed Internet technology.
Jack Staff, chief economist at Zona Research, said: "We're glad to see that the government has taken a laissez-faire attitude (towards the Internet)."
But the US Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), a civil rights action group, is unhappy about the lack of specifics regarding the protection of users' privacy.
Deirdre Mulligan, staff counsel at the CDT, said: "The report says that (the administration) will continue to monitor the self-regulatory activities.
But there's not enough concrete (information) on what are the deliverables and the delivery date."
- More Internet news, p30.
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