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The Warsaw Voice » Business » February 6, 2008
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Forum: E-Commerce Set for Growth
February 6, 2008 By A.R.    
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Even though e-commerce is still in its infancy in Poland, the country's IT and e-commerce systems can safely compete with those offered by international giants, said market professionals and experts during in a recent debate in Warsaw. The debate, known as the First E-Commerce in Poland Forum, was held by the American Chamber of Commerce and Amway Polska in January.

According to most experts, the main barriers to the development of e-commerce in Poland are related to logistics and courier services. People's poor internet skills are another obstacle.

Krzysztof Pawłowski, president of the Nowy Sącz School of Business (WSB-NLU), said e-commerce is "not just about commerce, but about business based on the internet." E-commerce is "the foundation of the new economy," Pawłowski added.

Marcin Pery from the Gemius company said, "E-commerce is like commerce, only better and cheaper. People who don't make purchases via the internet pay more for everything. Those who pay their monthly bills at the post office or bank leave a few zlotys of commission there every time. An internet bank transfer costs nothing or next to nothing."

In terms of internet popularity, Poland lags far behind other countries in the region. About 6 percent of people in Poland use the internet in contacts with public administration, whereas the figure in the Czech Republic is 17 percent, in Germany-32 percent, and in Norway-60 percent. About 30 percent of the population has internet access in Poland, compared with 50 percent in the Czech Republic and 75 percent in Sweden. E-commerce sales in Europe as a whole grew by 100 percent in 2006, while the growth in Poland was only about 2 percent. "The really big players, like Tesco or Carrefour, are not accessible via the web," said Alina Prawdzik of eBay Polska.

The forum's participants discussed not only online business but also the chances for creating a Polish Silicon Valley, a technology park modeled after the U.S. hi-tech hub in northern California where all the largest IT companies are based. Such a new-technology center has been set up in India to supply innovative products to Europe and other regions of the world. Participants in the discussion wondered if Poland could become an IT and hi-tech base for global e-commerce. Marek Sodolski from Amway Polska and Marcin Żuchowicz from Epoint said Poland could be no less competitive than India in e-commerce. Epoint and Amway recently joined forces to build a giant e-commerce platform in Poland. Called Amway Online, it combines sales, management and communication functions. Epoint became a partner of the Amway Online project after outbidding a company from India. The platform developed in Poland has also been successful in other countries in Central and Eastern Europe and will soon be available in 26 countries across Europe, Sodolski and Żuchowicz said.
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