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Inquiring businesspeople click on Internet in seminar held at Darden

From Daily Progress
January 1, 1995

By Charlotte Crystal

The Internet is hot, hot, hot, and people in business are trying to figure out how to use it without getting burned.

About 80 businesspeople, from as far away as New York, gathered at the University of Virginia's Darden Graduate School of Business Administration on Wednesday for an all-day seminar on how to do "Electronic Commerce on the Internet."

Alfred C. Weaver, a professor of engineering and computer science who runs UVa's computer network lab, called the Internet "one of the revolutionizing technologies that we'll see in this century and the next."

Along with Weaver's high-speed, on-the-spot demonstration of tapping into computer services, the $395 seminar, run by Darden's Executive Education program, offered information needed by businesses considering launching an online presence, answering such questions as: "I wonder how much money you could lose by getting into an unknown technology?"

Weaver demonstrated several of the services that businesses now offer online, everything from ordering a pizza to tracking a parcel, to reserving a spot with Fly With Us, a Russian outfit that offers a vacation package including a ride in a MiG-29 Fulcrum B military jet aircraft for a mere $11,975.

He estimated that 25,000 computer networks now serve 20 million to 30 million people worldwide, with the number of users growing by 10% each month, a "staggering" figure that alone should persuade companies to investigate ways to do business on the Internet.

Later in the day, Robert Simoncic, a research scientist with UVA's computer science department, touched on security issues and Brandt Allen, associate dean of Darden and the James C. Wheat Jr. professor of business administration, explored the future of business on the Internet.

Commercial use of the Internet has exploded since May 1, when restrictions on the government sponsored computer network were lifted, according to Weaver. Already, thousands of businesses are using their network to gather news, publish product and service information, recruit employees, perform banking services, secure reservations and put out financial reports, according to Allen.

Indeed, Brian Chase, co-founder of Spirits Evolving, a spiritual consultations and publications business based in Ivy, said his company has had a home page on the Internet for the past two months.

"We started out with zero knowledge of the Internet," said Chase, who works with Lee Channing, the "C-ville Psychic," who writes an advice column that runs in the C-ville Weekly.

When CompuServe gave them access to the Internet at no extra charge, Chase began browsing to see whether any competitors were out there and to see whether it made sense for their company to go online. It did.


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