Taiwan's government leaders have recognized that globally interoperable eCommerce is important to the economic development of Taiwan. This "thought paper" outlines a plan-to-plan for pervasive, global eCommerce interoperability as a means to establishing Taiwan as an international leader in eCommerce. This paper has been prepared by Dave Hollander of CommerceNet at the request of Dr. Shih-Chien Yang, Minister of State, R.O.C.
In Taiwan today businesses and government are well positioned to begin planning the next steps in eCommerce. There exists a deep understanding of the importance of eCommerce as well as a demonstrated commitment to excel. This commitment is evidenced by the success of the NII to provide Internet access to over 4 million users as well as the development of the Type A and B supply chain projects.
The goal of the plan, when completed, would be to identify the steps necessary to establish Taiwan as a showcase of globally interoperable eCommerce. The plan would extend the current automation and eCommerce programs to reach up to 50,000 companies and be focused on eCommerce enabling small to medium size businesses. The plan would assure a high level of interoperability, not only between companies within Taiwan but also internationally. The plan would be a map for moving from supply chain automation to globally interoperable supply webs.
The plan to evolve from supply chains to globally interoperable supply webs will require the definition of values and objectives. The values establish the foundation beliefs that the plan is based upon and the objectives identify achievements in four broad areas: infrastructure, architectural framework, research and education programs, and pilots and development projects.
The overall objective of the plan is to extend the current industry automation and computerization programs as necessary to establish Taiwan as a showcase of globally interoperable eCommerce. This objective will be achieved by focusing on interoperability while moving from supply chains between 20 companies to webs reaching 50,000 companies including small and medium sized businesses. This focus on supply chain automation integrated with factory automation will provide "a favorable strategic position in the future world market and establish Taiwan as a worldwide model of pervasive, globally interoperable eCommerce.
This plan-to-plan identifies four values in addition to the values and foundation already established by the government plans for e-commerce and National Infrastructure Development. These include:
"Interoperability" means the ability of separate systems to be linked together and then operate as if they were a single entity. For Internet commerce and business to business transactions, interoperability essentially means, "to be able to do business" without ad hoc and proprietary integration traditionally required when "everyone does it a different way."
Universal interoperability is not always necessary. For most companies, the decisions on which markets to enter are based on a myriad of complex trade-offs. Thus, interoperability should not be cast as an all-or-none issue. For one business to decide whether it can do business with another, it must answer a set of questions that define levels of interoperability.
Levels of interoperability provide the flexibility necessary to allow complex and autonomous systems to evolve towards greater interoperability. This flexibility combined with market pressures assure that as long as business conditions favor interoperability, interoperable systems will continue to evolve.
The Internet has very rapidly become the pervasive technology driving changes in business, work and learning. The high level of achievement by the developers of Internet technology can be attributed to the flexibility it provides to identify opportunities and priorities that allowed contributors to build on their strengths.
This plan would try to emulate the Internet development environment by establishing a eCommerce platform which stimulates win-win situations: situations which provide opportunities for parties to participate at their level and in subject areas of interest to them.
A quality abstract architecture provides the framework necessary to allow multiple parties to independently develop components of a system. By defining interfaces and boundaries, a good framework not only provides opportunities to innovate, it also provides guidelines that promote the orderly evolution over time.
To serve its role in guiding development, a framework needs to be
It is more important for the scope of an architectural framework to include all aspects of how "to be able to do business" when "everyone does it a different way" than it is to specify each and every aspect of the process. Detailed, concrete architectures that are fully specified can be developed which conform to the abstract architecture.
eCommerce networks are based on the flow of information. To be globally interoperable, eCommerce must develop information standards and practices designed to make information open and reusable. The role of document-based architectures and the Extensible Markup Language (XML) will continue to expand and be the foundation for pervasive information exchange.
Broadly pervasive interoperable eCommerce does not exist today. The expected effect of having a majority of trading partners in a interoperable trading environment is a non-linear improvement in performance of the participating business. This performance can be measured in a variety of ways, transaction costs, new business opportunities, corporate profits and market share to name a few.
The establishment of Taiwan as a "living laboratory" for pervasive interoperability, with a large percentage of potential partners in an interoperable systems environment, will give the world an opportunity to measure these effects as well as to discover unexpected effects. These unexpected effects may include new market development, social changes or product developments. This focus of world attention is likely to draw significant human and financial resources into the program that will improve its outcome.
One objective is the development of an eCommerce enabled infrastructure. The infrastructure provides services layered upon the existing Internet infrastructure. This objective requires the identification of infrastructure components that enable eCommerce deployments as judged by three metrics:
The development or adoption of a eCommerce framework is a key objective. The architecture needs to enable the discovery of and interaction with e-commerce systems on the Internet. CommerceNet's eCo Framework  is typical of good frameworks in that it provides opportunities to innovate and includes an abstract architecture that can persist over time and is based on business requirements.
Completing this objective will require establishing a consensus on of the design principles and requirements followed by the architecture itself. The eCo Framework specification provides a good starting point for this activity. The eCo framework uses a seven layer model to describe how interoperable eCommerce systems can be built that do not relying on assumptions or information from outside of the eCo network. This framework only relies on the knowledge of the framework and Internet standards (HTTP, XML). This comprehensive definition of a trading context separates this framework from other technology focused eCommerce frameworks.
The eCo Framework is underspecified in that is it does not describe enough of the environment to assure that each and every necessary component in a eCommerce environment will interoperate. While often thought of as a deficiency, it is this lack of detail that makes the eCo framework valuable. There is sufficient room within the framework to innovate and develop solutions to meet a variety of business models and technical implementations.
2.4 Research and Education
The development of a plan to promote education and research in eCommerce will need to be developed as an objective. This plan needs to build upon the current projects to provide training to increase an understanding of the role and techniques of interopability in technical infrastructures.
Global economy requires global interoperability, therefore, key elements of this objective will be to identify and promote participation in key global eCommerce standards and to give preference to programs with global partners.
The research plan should focus on the nurture role of management as described by Thomas Stewart :
A successful research and education program can create the knowledge necessary to assure that Taiwan outperform the global market by its actions.
2.5 Pilots and Deployment
The final objective to be defined is to expand the program of eCommerce pilots and deployments. This plan outline proposes two areas of focus:
This objective will need to identify the necessary resources, incentives and metrics to expand on the success of today's Type A and B eCommerce projects. It is important to begin to identify new metrics beyond monetary volume of transactions to provide insight to the success of the plan. Candidate metrics include number of business partners traded with in a year and set-up costs of establishing new business partners.
This plan outline proposed three implementation strategies: development tracks to isolate dependencies, standards development to establish interfaces between organizations and infrastructure development to foster and support interoperability. Development of the plan may identify other strategies that will be necessary to archive the goals and objectives of the program.
The plan should identify separate development tracks to isolate dependencies that should run in parallel. Each track need to be defined to identify projects with immediate business results, projects that will demonstrate of new features and capabilities and research topics and activities. This outline identifies three tracks: definition, vertical supply webs and horizontal service standards.
The definition track would perform the planning and definition tasks for the other tracks. This track would explore potential activities, maintain the abstract architectural framework and provide guidance on resource allocations.
The supply web track focuses on expanding the accomplishments of the current eCommerce programs. The track is divided into two focus areas where each area provides incentives for business to begin interoperable eCommerce while minimizing the barriers to activity.
The first focus is to analyze the existing "A" and "B" supply chains to identify and characterize opportunities for standardization. Standards and infrastructure are then developed to formalize these opportunities and project run to deploy the standardized solutions.
A second activity in this track is to identify and develop an concrete, fully specified architecture for specific supply chains. The track would then develop and implement at least one specification for each step in a trading process.
The horizontal interoperability track is focused on establishing and implementing standards and practices for specific products and services in specific steps in the transaction process. Examples processes include fulfillment, finance and procurement.
The standards strategy would be defined to develop national eCommerce standards that are based on global standards adopted to meet local business needs. The focus is to identify, develop and publish standards for interfaces between organizations. This strategy would strive to support two goals, the identification of opportunities to interoperate and the alignment with global interoperability trends.
Much of the standards strategy would be to develop the infrastructure and incentives to nurture participation by researchers in Taiwan. The intent would be to provide just enough support to allow a "community of interest" to evolve without setting expectations for specific deliverables. The goal would be to foster a deeper understanding of the needs, issues and techniques of Interoperability and to identify interfaces that are ready to be standardized.
A global economy requires global interoperability. Alignment of local business standards with international standards will help assure that the advances made will support interoperate with global partners. Influence over international standards, especially when based on proven success in national markets, will help minimize difficulties interfacing with global systems. This is particularly important in the areas of character support (Internationalization), vocabularies and document modeling. Participation in international standards efforts also provides significant educational, research and human resources (staffing) opportunities.
The development of a eCommerce infrastructure should be a strategic focus. There are at three areas that deserve consideration as strategic infrastructure focuses. These are services which:
Interoperability requires a common understanding of vocabulary and processes involved in a transaction. To interoperate internationally will require a strategy that reduces the effort and risks involved with interoperation with other cultures business conventions.
One significant strategy to consider is the development of a national portal which describe or provide the services necessary according to local Taiwan business practices as well as those of international partners. These services could include service registries, language translation, transaction archiving and discovery.
Research, develop then implement mapping and negotiation techniques to allow business to implement a variety of processes while retaining cross-business interoperability. Particularly germane to a government program are the mappings between local and other national legal and governmental regulations.
Taiwan is uniquely situated to significantly increase the impact eCommerce can have on its industry. Having completed sufficient infrastructure development and begun development of eCommerce enabled supply chains, progressing to pervasively interoperable global eCommerce is a natural step.
The steps described in this plan outline do not represent a significant governmental investment. Rather, a coordinated set of small steps are presented that can be taken in parallel and each of which provides its own feedback and rewards. If taken, these steps may not only improve the efficiency of existing supply chain operations, they may lead to significant new business opportunities which improve the global competitiveness of the R.O.C.
 National Information Infrastructure Development in R.O.C; Shih-Chien Yang
 Plan to Promote E-commerce in Taiwan's IT Industry
 The eCo Framework; http://eco.commerce.net
 Intellectual Capital; Thomas Stewart; pg. 191