Small Business and Regional Portals in Australia

Small Business and Regional Portals in Australia

Arthur Tatnall (Victoria University, Australia), Stephen Burgess (Victoria University, Australia) and Mohini Singh (RMIT University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-799-7.ch163
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Abstract

A portal is a special Web site designed to act as a gateway to give access to other related sites (Tatnall 2005b). It is often used as a base site that users will keep returning to after accessing other sites, and is often seen as a starting point for specific groups of users when they access the Web. What is unique about Web portals is the way that these special sites are now being used to facilitate access to other sites that may be closely related, in the case of special purpose portals, or quite diverse in the case of general portals (Internet.com, 1999). There are many differences in the ways in that small businesses adopt and use information technology (IT) by comparison with larger businesses. Small businesses are constrained by a lack of resources (time, money and expertise) and the strategic, longer-term focus necessary to plan effective use of IT. These differences extend to the adoption and use of the Internet and electronic commerce. This article considers the still evolving concept of portals and the potential use of community and regional portals by small businesses. Benefits that portals can provide to small businesses are discussed here, and two Australian regional portals are contrasted against the more generic e-mall to illustrate the benefits that portals can provide for small businesses. The term Web portal is overused and difficult to define precisely. There is no definitive categorisation of the types of portal, but Tatnall (2005a) offers the following: 1. General Portals: Portals can aim to provide links to sites that can be either closely related or quite diverse. General portals provide links to all sorts of different sites of the user’s choosing, many having developed from being simple search tools (such as Yahoo), Internet service providers (such as AOL), and e-mail services (such as Hotmail). 2. Vertical Industry Portals: Usually based around specific industries and aggregate information relevant to particular groups, or ‘on-line trade communities’ of closely related industries. They aim to facilitate the exchange of goods and services in a particular market as part of a value chain. 3. Horizontal Industry Portals: A portal is described as horizontal when it is utilised by a broad base of users across a horizontal market. Horizontal industry portals are typically based around a group of industries, or a local area. 4. Community Portals: Often set up by community groups, or are sometimes based around special group interests. They attempt to foster virtual communities where users share a common location or interest, and provide many different services. Sometimes community portals represent specific regional areas (and are thus called regional portals). 5. Enterprise Information Portal: The term enterprise (or corporate) information portal is often applied to the gateways to the corporate intranets that are used to manage the knowledge within an organisation. 6. E-Marketplace Portals: These extended enterprise portals often offer access to a company’s extranet services and are useful for business-to-business processes such as ordering, tendering and supply of goods. 7. Personal/Mobile Portals: Following the trends towards mobile (or pervasive) computing personal/mobile portals are increasingly being embedded into mobile phones wireless PDAs and similar devices. 8. Information Portals: These can be viewed as a category in their own right as portals whose prime aim is to provide a specific type of information. 9. Specialised/Niche Portals are portals designed primarily to satisfy specific niche markets, but often could also be classified as Information Portals. Eduard (2001) refered to portal Web sites as being the fourth stage of development of a business Web sites. The earlier stages are: 1. Dumb Web site, 2. Simple interactive Web site, and 3. Transactional interactive Web site. The fourth stage of Web sites development, according to Eisenmann (2002), is where the business attempts to become a focus of attention for customers (and perhaps suppliers). It becomes the first “port of call” for that group for many of their needs, perhaps linking through to other businesses. This opens up options for other forms of revenue, such as advertising or sales commissions.

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