Defining e-commerce and e-business
Electronic trading of physical goods as well as intangibles
like information. Includes all trading steps such as
marketing, ordering, payment, and support for delivery.
An inter-networked organisation using ICTs to establish
close relations among its stakeholders, employees,
customers and suppliers. ICTs help to minimize distance
between the business and its partners, by automating
transaction processing, strengthening relationships, and
IICD Research Brief – No 2, January 2002
E-business for NGOs
The for-profit sector has spent billions of dollars looking for ways to succeed in the knowledge economy. New
ICTs shift costs, extend markets, expand information flows, and change the borders of organisations. Such
structural changes force NGOs to rethink strategies and operations. It also requires a different approach to terms
like ‘client’, ‘profit’, and ‘competition.’ It means asking questions like ‘who are my clients’, ‘who are my
competitors,’ and ‘how does my organisation create or add value?’ It means imagining what ICTs and the Internet
can offer in terms of new advocacy strategies and new ways of funding. The NGO sector is on the edge of a major
transformation. One challenge is to learn from business lessons and to apply e-business principles and
paradigms in ways that enable NGOs to become more efficient, effective, and integrated. Written for development
NGOs, this brief introduces e-business notions from the for-profit sector. It examines their relevance for NGOs,
and outlines the first steps an NGO could take when adopting an ‘e-business’ approach.
What is e-business?
The problem with buzzwords like e-commerce or e-
business is that there are as many definitions as there are
experts. The definition of e-business used here refers to
the way in which financial, capital, and human resources
are organised. Of course, there is also the underlying e-
business technology. E-commerce, as part of e-business,
is less disruptive in terms of organisational change.
Importance of e-business
Technological developments fuel cultural and societal
developments, and the other way around. Understanding
these trends and developments helps us to create new
opportunities for the design and delivery of new products
or services. Some important trends are:
Networked markets: With fewer geographic and time
restrictions, there are new distribution opportunities
for ideas, products or services.
Integrated software applications: Efficient and
effective decision-making requires an integration of
various software systems.
Infrastructure convergence: Worldwide, telephone
networks, cable TV networks, wireless networks, and
computer data networks are converging into a unified
network based on the Internet Protocol.