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Internet tech center to offer suite of software free

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July 1, 1999

By Jennifer Jones

Amid the local high-tech work force crunch, the Virginia Internet Technology Innovation Center (TIC) soon will roll out free software that lets companies hook up with qualified consultants and service providers to offload technical jobs.

The center's TIC is charged with fostering the state's tech economy and represents a consortium of four state universities. It is a virtual entity funded by the Northern Virginia Center for Innovative Technology.

Along with publishing free software, the center also mentors companies and entrepreneurs and is working with the state to coax companies to participate more in Internet2, a government program that offsets the cost of high-bandwidth access to the Internet.

ConsultantsOnline will join Internet TIC's MatchMaker - a searchable database of more than 3,300 high-tech companies in the state that businesses can use to hunt for partners, suppliers or customers.

Rounding out the center's software series is Brainpower for Business, another database which contains information on corporate assistance centers and services, and SurveySuite, which companies can use to launch electronic surveys. (Information on all the products is available at http://intercom.virginia.edu ).

The center generated the software series in an effort to help the entire industry and, as a result, expand its portfolio of 25 companies which so far have been mentored remotely by the center.

For example, the center recently provided help to an entrepreneur in Middleburg who wants to build an electronic purchasing system for government. In another case, the center lent expertise to the Word Bank, which was looking to develop software to track emerging African nations.

But Internet TIC is particularly focused on e-commerce start-ups and early-stage companies.

"A company comes in with an idea and they need more expertise to get their idea to a prototype," said Alfred Weaver, professor at UVA and director of Internet TIC. "We can use the university staff to consummate the idea for the company."

The center also now is helping the state lure local companies into the government's Internet2 initiative - a national program aimed at enhancing access to the Internet. Until now, mostly research institutions, nonprofits and government agencies have been invited to participate in Internet2.

"Internet 2 seeks to increase the speed to the Internet's backbone," Weaver said. "The speed of the existing Internet is fine, but the portals are slow. This extends to the desktop access speeds from 10 megabits per second to 150 megabits per second, depending on the technology."


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