OBIS: online business information for the Pacific
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CTA. 2003. OBIS: online business information for the Pacific. ICT Update Issue 13. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57630
by Moira Nowak Moira Nowak describes how a single computer connected to the Internet is helping farmers and rural entrepreneurs throughout the Solomon Islands to expand their businesses.
Martin Sopage, a cocoa farmer from the village of Komuvaulu on the island of Guadalcanal, is just one of the growing number of local entrepreneurs in the Solomon Islands who are using the Online Business Information Service (OBIS) to obtain the information they need to expand their businesses. Through OBIS he was able to get in touch with new buyers for his cocoa crop, and is now exporting six containers of cocoa each month to markets in Australia and the UK. The OBIS website was launched by the Ministry of Commerce to provide access to information for local entrepreneurs to help them in starting up or expanding their businesses, and to promote private sector investment in indigenous enterprises. OBIS is an Internet-based information referral service that enables small entrepreneurs to access a wide range of business information, including sources of (micro)finance, equipment and raw materials, as well as potential market opportunities and buyers, business ideas and technical know-how, that both established and new businesses need to know. OBIS brings Internet access within the reach of entrepreneurs throughout the Solomon Islands, especially those in the provinces who need resources to help them in developing commercial ventures. Located within the Ministry of Commerce offices in Honiara, OBIS is run from a single computer connected to the Internet. Local entrepreneurs who have access to the Internet can submit their requests for information to the OBIS webmaster by email. Alternatively, those who do not have access to the Internet can deliver requests for information in person at the OBIS office in Honiara, and those who live in remote rural areas in other provinces can fax them to the local OBIS branch office. If the OBIS webmaster or local branch staff are unable to answer a question, or if the requested information is not readily available locally, they will conduct a search of the Internet to find an answer. The results are then posted on the website, or are faxed back to the local branch office. The OBIS webmaster also compiles the many business ideas and information requested by local entrepreneurs, and publishes them in the form of a series of information sheets, and in the bimonthly OBIS Newsletter. Sometimes, finding an answer to a business query may involve getting in touch with individuals or companies overseas by email. The webmaster establishes contact and follows it up until the client has all the information he or she requires. For this assistance, OBIS charges a flat fee of SBD$15 (about US$3), regardless of the amount of time spent finding the information and following up any subsequent enquiries. These fees go into a fund that will be used to build up the service to help ensure its sustainability in the future. Within the past year OBIS has linked up with the People First Network (PFNet), the network of email stations using high-frequency (HF) radio established by the Ministry of Provincial Government (see ICT Update issue 10, March 2003). The local PFNet station operators forward requests for business information directly to the OBIS webmaster. This has proved to be a fast and inexpensive way to exchange information and has greatly improved communications between the OBIS head office in Honiara and the provinces. Despite the recent political unrest in the Solomon Islands OBIS has been receiving an average of 30 requests for information per month, but expects this number to grow now that the situation is more stable and as the businesses environment improves. mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org Moira Nowak is OBIS´s webmaster. For more information, visit the http://www.commerce.gov.sb/IRS/Online_Business_Information_Service_OBIS.htm OBIS website.