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Launch of GEMS [Government Electronic Marketplace Service], The Boat House, [Canberra], 10am, August 1, 1995: speech



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Speech for Frank Walker. Minister for Administrative Services for the launch of GEMS 10am. AUGUST 1.1995

The Boat House

Thank you Laurie, and thank you to Purchasing Australia for inviting me here this morning to launch a project that in all senses has to described as a little gem.

I’m really very enthusiastic about our department’s role in the introduction of electronic commerce across the Commonwealth. It holds great promise for the modernisation and the simplification of government purchasing, and it’s up to us to see it happen in a way

that’s welcoming, manageable and equitable.

This is an area of technology reform that’s moving so fast that my speaking notes were revised last night to take account of changes over the last few days.

This fine tuning of the product being launched here today will allow Australian suppliers to use GEMS to tap into the government purchasing systems of the US, Canada and Europe ... as well as our own.

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And I should say that while the Government is prepared to take the lead with its own purchasing practices, we do not trade in a vacuum. The trading community and its openness to change and

cooperation, is an essential part of the equation.

If Australia is to use these reforms to improve our competitive advantage, it will only happen because suppliers were prepared to embrace the technology and to practise it between themselves. To work

cooperatively with us and with each other to make the changes work for us all.

The term 'electronic commerce', of course, covers a wide range of computer and telecommunications technologies for buying, selling and paying for goods and services.

The up-side is pretty clear. Electronic commerce will streamline purchasing across the country and internationally. It will improve the speed, the accuracy and the quality of business transactions.

But it does represent a massive change - one that can be handled well or handled badly.

The main danger, as I see it, is the risk of leaving people behind. And the fact is that once that happens, it’s very difficult to go back and retrieve the possibilities and the partnerships that have been lost.

In DAS, we take the view that electronic commerce will be introduced, at every stage, in league and in cooperation with the rest of the Australian community, particularly with suppliers and small to medium business.

This is only realistic if we capture the imagination and the courage of our trading community.

To that end, I have the great pleasure today of introducing a new service, designed to tempt both buyers and sellers with the wonders of electronic commerce. It’s called the Government Electronic

Marketplace Service, or GEMS, and it offers just a taste of what’s possible.

GEMS, one of the first electronic commerce initiatives being introduced by my Department, is the forerunner for a far more advanced electronic marketplace which will start to operate in 1996.

This initial GEMS service is a kind of electronic notice board to help suppliers access a wide range of information on what governments want to buy, and on how to go about selling it to them.

At the touch of a button, from the comfort of my office in Parliament House, I can now find out about trading opportunities from Ipswich to Istanbul.

For me, it’s a split second lesson in technological wizardry. For suppliers, it offers instantaneous awareness and the power to really compete - in local, domestic and international trading arenas.

As well as listing all tender opportunities from the Commonwealth Gazette, GEMS will list State and local government tender calls, dates for government auctions and a range of information about government

databases.

GEMS will also list special one-off purchasing opportunities like the trucking tenders for the Department of Defence’s Kangaroo ‘95 exercise.

Purchasing Australia’s publications will be “on line”, as will information from the New Zealand Industrial Supplies Office.

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By the end of next year, suppliers will be able to use GEMS to make on-line requests for tender documents and will be able to lodge their tenders in an Electronic Tender Box.

Industry will benefit from GEMS because companies will find out about tender opportunities within seconds of them being called — giving them valuable extra time to prepare quality tenders.

And by using the system to access information about other aspects of government purchasing, businesses will find it cheaper and easier to research marketing possibilities across the whole of the public sector.

Government agencies will benefit from GEMS by having quicker access to the latest purchasing and contract information, and through the capacity to reach a much wider audience for tendering

advertisements.

Because business will get better quality information, government buyers will get better researched tenders - — and by improving efficiency on both sides, the long-term winner is the taxpayer.

In the last few months, Purchasing Australia has been involved in a variety of activities designed to make electronic commerce a reality.

A steering committee has been set up to develop overall strategy directions and to provide expert advice on the implementation of electronic commerce.

And we’re seeking input from industry on how to enhance GEMS to provide a complete Commonwealth Electronic Commerce Service.

Purchasing Australia is also offering on-going assistance to other government departments and agencies in the development of individual electronic commerce strategies.

The new technology will mean that all businesses, including small and medium enterprises that haven’t done business with the Commonwealth before, now

have direct access to information on government purchasing.

For those with Internet access already, GEMS will cost nothing extra. For those who aren’t, the set-up cost to access the Internet is likely to be about $500.

But even businesses that don’t have a computer, and don’t want to get one, can still use GEMS.

Industry associations and chambers of commerce may do the searching for you and provide you with printed versions of the information.

Regional businesses can use Internet facilities at government Telecentres. And some local libraries now also provide Internet access.

This is technology for everyone.

We simply can’t afford to let electronic commerce become the language of an elite. And certainly it’s not in the Government’s best interests to join forces with select suppliers in setting up some kind of closed club

of electronic commerce connoisseurs.

As I said earlier, if these innovations are to work - 1 mean really work for the good of the nation - they have to be accepted, they have to be understood and they have to become commonplace.

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This will take time, and it will take some vision on all of our parts. For our part, in DAS, it’s time now to get the ball rolling with GEMS - a first stage system whose value is both functional and symbolic. It’s

about getting on board and being prepared for the limitless possibility of electronic commerce.

I’d like to thank the staff in Purchasing Australia for their enormous effort in getting GEMS off the ground and in organising today’s launch.

And now, how better to introduce a brand new piece of technology than to use another, pretty well ubiquitous medium that our kids can’t ever remember living without... the VCR.

Thank you.

(GEMS introductory video begins)

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