Saturday, February 16, 2008

Preserving Port Moresby’s WW11 history

SOMETIME last year, a friend of mine asked me to be a tour guide for a retired American WW11 veteran, who is also a bit of a history buff.

The old American wanted to be shown all the prominent WW11 sites around Port Moresby, war relics, Bomana war cemetery, as well as the start of the Kokoda Trail at Owers’ Corner.

To prepare for the job, I had to be well-versed in the WW11 history of Port Moresby, so I brought down all my old books down from the shelves, made notes, as well as searched the Internet.

The big day came, and I showed the US veteran such places as Burns Peak, Paga Hill and the wreck of the Macdhui near Tatana Island before we hit the highway bound for Bomana war cemetery and Owers’ Corner.

We made a brief stop at what used to be the site of Schwimmer Drome at Laloki, on the banks of the great river of the same name, where we inspected all the WW11 relics at an impromptu war museum run by Gulf man Thomas Richard Auhava.

By 1944, Port Moresby had six airfields, one of which was Schwimmer.Jackson was the largest of these, and was named after Australian ace pilot John Jackson, leader of RAAF Squadron 75, who was killed in a dogfight against Japanese planes over Port Moresby on April 28, 1942.

The wartime airfields were Kila Drome (3-Mile) airfield for fighters and bombers; Ward Drome (5-Mile) airfield for heavy bombers and transport planes; Jackson (7-Mile) main airfield still in use today; Berry Drome (12-Mile) fighter and medium bomber base near Bomana; Schwimmer (14-Mile) fighter and medium bomber base; Durand (17-Mile) fighter and medium bomber base; Rogers (Rarona, 30-Mile) fighter and medium bomber and Fishermen’s (Daugo) emergency landing strip on offshore island.

Schwimmer Drome, according to various airmen who served from it, was the “eye and mind” of the 1942-1945 Pacific War, because it was from here that aerial surveillance missions of Japanese positions were made.

The US airmen forming the 8th Photo Squadron commanded by First Lieutenant Karl Polifika, a Russian, first landed at Schwimmer on May 2, 1942, and flew from Schwimmer until July 27, 1944, when the squadron moved to Durand Strip.

There are also other squadrons from the US Air Force like 435th Bomb Squadron, 3rd Attack Group assigned to do fragmentation bombing, 43rd Bomb Group assigned to do long-range bombing missions, 39th Fighter Group and 9th Fighter Group.

Mr Auhava has, over the years, been collecting the numerous war relics in and around the site of the old Schwimmer Drome in a labour-of-love.

He is fighting a lonely battle against scrap metal hunters and dealers, who without any scruples, do anything to get an extra buck.

This week, he brought a proposal to the National Museum and Art Gallery in Waigani, Port Moresby, for funding to set up a proper museum.Mr Auhava has been living at Laloki for the last 20 years and knows every nook and cranny in the area.

“Over the years,” says the former PNG Defence Force soldier, “I’ve been collecting these war relics and I’ve been featured in newspapers.

“Because of this media publicity, tourists started visiting, and I’ve decided to start a proper museum.

“The proposal for the museum has been signed by the landowners already and will be handed over to the National Museum.

”The war relics include human bones, helmets, dog tags, tools, hand grenades (defused), bombshells, bullets, coins, jerry cans, 1940’s Coca-Cola bottles and assorted paraphernalia.

One of the prized possessions of the collection is the remains of the plane of Australian air ace, John Jackson, after whom Port Moresby’s famous Jackson’s International Airport is named.

Jackson crashed on the hills overlooking Laloki after a heroic dogfight against Japanese fighters.

Mr Auhava, originally from Iokea village in Gulf province, is a self-taught historian and is a walking encyclopaedia as I found out.

“History is very important,” he extols.

“This generation, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to know anything about the war.

“Historical sites like Schwimmers should be preserved for educational purposes, tourism, etc.

“These relics should be preserved and protected.

“Scrap metal vendors are getting their hands on these war relics.

“If we lose these war relics, we lose history.

“People are just taking them out and selling them to scrap metal dealers.

“I decided to bring them all to one place and take care of them.

“After that, I began to find out about the place itself, its history.

“I borrowed some WW11 books from a historian and did research.

“I realised that it (Schwimmers) was a WW11 US airbase.”

According to Mr Auhava’s proposal to the National Museum, a museum built under the name ‘Schwimmer War Museum’, would be a fitting tribute to the thousands of Americans and Australians based in Port Moresby during WW11.

It would focus on history, war surplus material protection, a site for educational excursions and a shrine for the future generations.

It would also protect war relics from being sold to unscrupulous scrap metal dealers and would promote community tourism values.

“I’m submitting a proposal to the National Museum to see if they can gurantee a budget for the (Schwimmer) museum, because these relics are State property which I’ve been protecting,” Mr Auhava said.

“The government talks so much about war surplus materials, and yet, they are not putting their money where their mouth is.

“Looking after these relics is hard work, for which I’m not paid.”

Ramu Agri-Industries set to take PNG into the future

Leading Papua New Guinea company Ramu Agri-Industries is poised for a very exciting future as it changes from a one-product company into the premier PNG agri-industrial business.

As part of the strategic positioning of the business, the company last year changed its name from Ramu Sugar to Ramu Agri-Industries Ltd, to reflect the broad spectrum of activities the company was now undertaking.

Despite the name change, the company, of course, continues to market its products under the brand names of Ramu Sugar, Ramu Ethanol and Ramu Beef.

The company was formed in 1978 and first produced sugar in 1982.

Its turnover last year was K107 million, out of the total PNG GDP of about K17 billion at current prices, which shows the important role Ramu plays in the GDP of this country.

The total work force is approximately 750 permanent employees plus 1,500 part-time employees.

Both of these numbers will increase in the near future as the oil palm expansion proceeds.
The major shareholders of the company are IPBC (26%); NasFund 19.75%; W R Carpenters 17%; Nambawan Finance (7%) and MVIL (8%).

Ramu exports sugar to the USA, beef to the Solomons and ethanol to Australia.

Its major problems revolve around the pests and diseases which are endemic to the Ramu Valley and to the fact that cane originated in Papua New Guinea.

Board Chairman Peter Colton makes no qualms that the company is “forward looking and future driven”.

“The domestic sugar market is clearly expanding,” he said.

“Revenues from oil palm look very promising.

“The prospects for our beef operation are excellent.

“We have recently leased an additional 7,500 hectares of land.

“The agreement with outgrowers to farm the disputed land will further increase our land bank.

“This will enable us to plan to grow all key businesses in stages over the next several years.

“The prospects for cashew and bamboo offer further prospects for diversification.

This means that during the current financial year, the company will be producing and selling crude palm oil and cattle and beef products, as well as sugar, molasses and ethanol.

The prospects for oil palm look very promising, so much so that the Board has decided to approve an increase in the planted area from 5,500 hectares to 7,500 hectares.

“This will enable us to increase the capacity throughput of our mill from 30 tonnes per hour to 45 tonnes per hour to fit in with the full foot print of the foundations and buildings,” Mr Colton said.

“We have in effect accelerated our expansion plans to take advantage of the fact that our yields are better than projected and the buoyant state of the palm oil market.

“Phase II of the oil palm division will be a doubling of the existing 7,500 hectares in the Dumpu to Walium area and a new mill.

“The timing of this is yet to be determined.

“While we do have some of our own land available at Dumpu, this phase will be very dependent on our ability to obtain secure title to sufficient land and the involvement of village farmers.
“The prospects for oil palm are very promising.

“The price for crude palm oil in Europe is at record highs.

“Most industry analysts are forecasting a price of between 600 and 700 US dollars per tonne for crude palm oil.

“Our oil palm consultant advises that the palms are growing well and he expects yields per hectare and overall extraction rate to be on or slightly above his targets.

“Village farmers have around 100 hectares under development at the moment and we hope to increase this to 750 hectares.

“Progress has been slower than we hoped due to land disputes between village people.

“We have signed an agreement with National Development Bank and the Madang Provincial Government to help achieve the target of 750 hectares”.

Ramu has been successful in leasing an additional 7500 hectares of land at Leron for its cattle.
“This increase in our land bank will assist us in our objective to expand the beef herd to around 25,000 cattle,” Mr Colton said.

“The annual turn off will then increase from the current 4,500 head to 8,000 head.

“A market study commissioned last year showed that we have 9% of the domestic beef market.
“The company plans to increase its market share to 20 per cent through import substitution.

“Hand in hand with our own expansion will be a drive by the company to increase the number of smallholder cattle farmers.

“I am pleased to report that we are already enjoying enhanced weight gains and lower slaughter age and that we have been able to improve the feed quality for our cattle by growing and harvesting sorghum for the production of silage."

Mr Colton said the Ramu Board was reviewing the feasibility of establishing the company’s own genetic improvement programme and introducing new bloodlines to improve the weight for age equation and improve the eating quality of the meat.

“This has favourable implications for the whole of the PNG cattle industry,” he said.

“During this process the centre of the beef operation will shift from Dumpu/Gusap to Leron/Markham.

“The board continues to position Ramu as a future driven company.

“The implications of the larger herd size, the weight gains and our target of a 20% market share, are that at some time in the future, the company will need to consider the replacement our existing abattoir.

“The strategy we have adopted should substantially improve the returns from the beef division.”

After the disappointment of 2006 in which the company’s main revenue earner, sugar, suffered from a combination of adverse weather conditions and pests and diseases, it is back on the rebound.

Last August, Mr Colton was able to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the parties who were disputing ownership, to give Ramu Sugar full access to this land.

“This is significant because we can now resume normal production of cane close to the sugar factory rather than 25km away at Dumpu,” he said.

“As soon as it became obvious that we had cane supply difficulties, we took immediate action to restructure and strengthen the agricultural function by outsourcing cane production to our former corporate managers Booker Tate.”

The Board last year received a report stating that “the cane recovery programme is well on track and we may expect to achieve our target of 500,000 tonnes of cane in 2009”.

Also last year, Ramu’s diversification programme kicked off in earnest and its reliance on sugar started to reduce.

PNG Coffee Festival & Trade Fair makes a comeback

The hugely-successful PNG Coffee Festival & Trade Fair makes a comeback in May this year after a year’s lay-off due to the 2007 national elections.

Founder and president Norman Carver (pictured left with co-ordinator Genevieve Roberts) made the announcement.

“As the president of the PNG Coffee Festival & Trade Fair Inc, it is with great pleasure that I announce that the 2008 event will be staged on the 8th, 9th and 10th May this year in Goroka,” he said.

“The PNG Coffee Festival has truly become a unique event in PNG.

“This has been achieved through the successful partnering of agriculture, tourism, business and government for the common good of promoting social and economic life in the region.

“The event purposefully targets children and school students because the future progression of Papua New Guinea will become the responsibility of this young generation of Papua New Guineans.

“Coffee is lifeblood of the people that live along the Highlands Highway.

“ The coffee industry has become the backbone of the Highland’s economy and generates income for many individuals therefore we continue to promote Coffee as the No. 1 economic activity in the Highlands due to its long successful association with the people of this region.”

The festival is expected to attract in excess of 20, 000 people with more receiving the Coffee Festival message through an extensive media publicity campaign.

Organisers are also expecting an increase in exhibitor and singsing group participation this year as well.

The main event and trade Fair will be held at the Raun Raun Theatre with traditional sing sing groups, cultural performances, and an art s crafts market,” Mr Carver said.

“Coinciding events include an art exhibition, a night show at the University of Goroka and the Coffee Festival Ball at the Pacific Gardens Hotel.”

For more information or to participate in the PNG Coffee Festival & Trade Fair please contact festival administrator Ms Genevieve Roberts on telephone 732 1703, facsimile 732 3302 or email

Sunday, February 10, 2008

How Taiwan is bridging the digital divide

Taiwan is world-renowned for manufacturing computers, and it also tops the list of countries surveyed in e-readiness rankings by several international organisations.

But these facts do not mean that no digital divide exists on this island country.

The digital divide is a phenomenon that exists all over the world, including in more-developed countries.

In response to the growing global concern for digitally-disadvantaged groups, the Taiwan government launched a campaign to bridge the digital divide, not only in Taiwan but in other countries such as Papua New Guinea as well.

The ‘Bridging SME Digital Divide Project’ is an important project of the Small and Medium Enterprise Administration, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Taiwan, aiming to help small enterprises with under 20 employees embrace ecommerce.

The second one is called ‘Narrowing the Digital Divide between Urban and Rural Areas’, and the third is called ‘Asia-Pacific Digital Opportunities Centres (ADOC).

The ADOC programme aims at helping less-developed APEC member economies such as Papua New Guinea address the digital divide

Thanks to progress in information technology and popularity of the Internet, the threshold for small and medium enterprises to introduce e-commerce has become lower, but how to let business owners identify with and personally experience the benefits of e-business poses a major challenge for the promotion of the project.

Fortunately, under the mobilisation of the Information Service Industry Association of the Chinese Taipei, which is responsible for the execution of the project under the commission of the administration, and 21 municipal computer industry associations, staff of the 12 SME e-business assisting teams and over 1,000 information service providers have approached renowned scenic spots and remote townships to promote e-commerce painstakingly among business owners.

Their efforts have successfully encouraged tens of thousands of small business owners to make the small e-step, allowing them to begin experiencing the power of e-commerce in creating business opportunities.

From its inception in 2005, the project has assisted 16,000 small enterprises to establish Broadband Internet access and 32,000 small enterprises to embrace e-commerce, helping them to create over NT$2 billion in business opportunities and bringing business worth over NT$800 million to information service providers.

The ‘Bridging the Digital Divide of the SME Project’ aims at enabling hundreds of thousands of Taiwan micro businesses to use the Internet and e-commerce in their business operations.
This project is sponsored by the Small and Medium Enterprise Administration, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Chinese Taipei.

There are 982,000 registered business entities in Taiwan, 94% of which employ less than 20 employees.

Although Broadband Internet penetration has reached most rural areas and subscription fees are generally affordable by households and businesses, most of these micro businesses are still not active or sophisticated users of information technology and the Internet compared to larger businesses.

Answering to the needs of the vast numbers of micro businesses, the government has staged a nationwide campaign to significantly bridge the digital divide to these underprivileged citizens and businesses.
In addition to the many impressive statistics that illustrate the success of the project, behind the figures are also many touching stories of Taiwanese small businessmen and women who have successfully integrated themselves and their business into today’s digital economy.

For instance, in Central Taiwan, Kukun village is known as the only place in Taiwan for growing coffee.

The original coffee tree seeds were brought to Taiwan by the Dutch from Indonesia about 200 years ago.

On weekends, Kukun is overwhelmed with visitors to the coffee shop, buying coffee beans and souvenirs.

But on weekdays, Kukun turns into a ghost town.

Most coffee shops and souvenir stores are closed and many men and women are idle for five days out of the week.

One of the digital heroes, Mr Ma-Cheng Lin, operates a coffee shop at Kukun.

By chance, he was asked to participate in this project.

As the opinion leader in the village, he convinced other villagers to join the project to form an e-cluster.

This e-cluster has 10 members who share a common website, named, ‘The Legend of the Black Gold’.

In their minds, Kukun coffee is like black gold which brings them fortune.

The 10-member cluster with an average age of 52 started to learn how to key in text, take digital pictures and upload them to their website.

Under the leadership of Mr Lin, who has considerable technical knowledge, the group convenes every week to discuss how to improve the look and content of the website.

A few weeks after the website was launched, Mr Lin finished his coffee baking on a weekday to find a message send to the website, asking to deliver one kilogramme of baked coffee beans with payment already wired to his account.

He could not believe that a customer he had never met would wire cash to his account before the merchandise was delivered.

The email orders kept coming for Mr Lin and other members of the cluster from the website.
Now, on weekdays, they are busy with packing the orders, arranging deliveries and answer growing enquiries from the website.

“I thought those coffee orders were dropped from Heaven,” Mr Lin described of his first experience with e-commerce. or SMS 6849763.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

How PNG can learn from the Taiwan ICT experience

A COUPLE of days ago, I received an email from a former The National colleague now studying in mainland China, Mathew Yakai.Mathew wrote to seek some advice on writing and I was more than happy to oblige.

He also wanted access to articles on my two trips to Taiwan last year; however, because of stringent Chinese Internet censorship he wasn’t able to access my Blog.

I then trod on his toes when I asked him what he was trying to prove by writing a weekly column on Sino-Taiwan relations in the weekly Sunday Chronicle.

I bluntly told him that this was a very-sensitive international relations matter which would best be left to politicians.

We got into a bit of an argument, however, still remain good friends.Anyway, for the benefit of Mathew and the many readers of this column, a half-century ago, Taiwan was basically on the same boat that Papua New Guinea is on right now.

It was a resource-poor, under-developed tropical island.Through sustained good policies over the past few decades, it has lifted its population from poverty, joining the ranks of the most-prosperous and competitive economies in the world.

Unlike Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong, it was able to weather quite unharmed the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

While advanced Asian countries have emphasised large corporate units, the Taiwanese economy is dominated by 97 per cent small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

While this might seem a disadvantage, the industry is structured in such a way that clusters of SMEs can service larger enterprises.

The entrepreneurial spirit generated by Taiwan’s difficult economic situation and lack or resources in earlier decades emphasised flexibility and cost-consciousness.

Taiwanese companies are accustomed to turbulent times and constant change, and expect to have to change products every six months.This structure provides great flexibility and rapid response times, while allowing for a more human scale and stronger personal relationships within the companies.

Today, Taiwan is a technological powerhouse that ranks among the world’s top producers of notebook personal computers, flat panel displays, modems, motherboards and other electronic components and products.

In 2004 it ranked fourth globally in the production value of its IT hardware.

It was also fifth in the World Economic Forum’s 2005-2006 Global Competitiveness rankings, with a strong showing in the area of technology and innovation, ranking 3rd in the world in the technology index.

The 2005-2006 Global Competitiveness Report highlights Taiwan’s exceptional strength in technology issues, including an impressive capacity for innovation, firm-level technology absorption, university/industry collaboration in research, and its pre-eminent position in the use of the latest technologies, from mobile phones to personal computers and the Internet

.Taiwan is indeed a model for countries, such as our Papua New Guinea, who are striving to improve their performance and competitiveness in information and communication technologies.

Taiwan’s transition from a poor agricultural society into an increasingly-sophisticated powerhouse of high-technology manufacturing and the world’s leading producer of information and communication technology products is, without doubt, one of the most-compelling development stories of the past half century.

However, as with all other countries that wish to maintain a competitive edge, the authorities will have to remain vigilant.

There is scope for further improvements in enhancing the quality of public institutions by increasing levels of transparency and openness.

Taiwan should in coming years aim to reach the standards of the Nordic countries in this area.

It has already matched their technological prowess.

Now it must reach their levels of efficiency in public sector management.

In his case study on Taiwan in the 2004-2005 Global Information Technology Report (Lin, 2005), FC Lin traces the evolution of Taiwan’s ICT industry through the first economic miracle of Taiwan’s transformation from an agricultural to an industrial economy (1953-1986), and describes the second miracle of its industrial restructuring (1987-2000), when low technology industries were forced to relocate overseas and were replaced by technology-intensive industries, particularly in the Information Technology sector.

In half a century, per capita GNP rose from US$196 to US$14,032.Lin attributes these successes to the following factors:

* Strong government leadership in maintaining a high growth rate and a strong fiscal situation;
* Manpower development with a high level of science and technology graduates;
* The coalescing of high-tech clusters following the model of Silicon Valley;*
The development of venture capital supporting high-tech small and medium enterprises; and
* A highly-energetic private sector.

He identifies the future challenges as breaking into the advanced industrial and research areas of application integration, technical innovation, and standards formulation as global competition reduces profit margins.

Today, everyone recognises the economic challenge that mainland China represents for Taiwan.

With the rapid growth of the economy in mainland China, there are increasing business ties between the mainland and Taiwan, despite as yet unresolved issues on the political front.

Trade between the two is growing rapidly, and a large number of Taiwanese, perhaps up to a million, are now working in mainland China.

There is a high level of investment as well, now estimated at US$100 billion, as the mainland is the logical place for Taiwanese businesses to delocalise production that is no longer competitive in Taiwan, taking advantage of low land prices and cheap labour.

These strengthening trade, economic and business links will undoubtedly serve to create the conditions for a peaceful co-operative resolution of outstanding bilateral political issues.

* or SMS 6849763
In Touch Media raises K85, 000 for flood victims

Lae-based local company In Touch Media Limited, in conjunction with its subsidiary FM Morobe 94.7 Radio Station, raised more than K85,000 in both cash and kind for the flood-devastated people of Oro through the 'Hands across the Land – Oro Appeal'.

In Touch Media and its subsidiaries including In Touch Multimedia Productions, Power Haus Records, In Touch Events and FM Morobe went on a 90-hour around-the- clock fundraising drive from last December 14 to December 17.

The initiative was part of In Touch Media’s community service that entailed mobilising corporation as ordinary residents of Lae city and Morobe province gave a helping hand to wantoks in Oro.

In Touch Media general manager, Lady Nohoranie Bogan, said: “The ‘Hands across the Land-Oro Appeal’ is the second for the local radio station, FM Morobe, following the ‘Asian Tsunami Appeal’ in 2004.

“The ‘Hands Across the Land –Oro Appeal’ was a success as it showed that there was compassion in people, especially ordinary people, who made up much of the FM Morobe 94.7 listenership and gave whatever little to the appeal.

“Donations poured in from a diverse group of people including churches, families, middle income workers, betel nut sellers and children who walked in from the street to contribute.”

Lady Nohoranie said the total raised in both cash and kind from business houses and the general public was K85, 241.62 and this was now in the trusted hands of St Andrews Local Parish in Oro for distribution.

“Shipment of the goods was made possible by Consort Shipping Lines,” she said.

“The donations included: one bale of 50 mosquito nets, three suitcases of assorted clothing, nine rainbow bags of assorted clothing, 180 boxes of clothes, two boxes of kitchen utensils, eight bales of assorted clothing, eight bales of assorted footware, 34 dozen garden items and 36 bales of 50 kg rice bags.

“The appeal was launched by the Secretary of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea and supported by Deputy Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Oro’s very own Ambassador Lucy Bogari.

“In Touch Media management acknowledges the following for their support in making the ‘Hands across the Land - Oro Appeal’ a success: Anglican Church of PNG, Ambassador Lucy Bogari and the Eroro community in Port Moresby, Lae police for their constant security presence throughout the appeal, numerous companies and business houses for their support in kind and the faithful listeners of FM Morobe and individual families, churches, organisation, community groups and the ordinary people of Morobe province.

“The donations were transshipped free of charge by Consort Shipping to Father Gombera of the Anglican Parish in Oro Bay and distributed to care centres at Eroro/Oro Bay, Gona/Kurou, and Emo.”
How the Taiwanese government is assisting SMEs in ICT

Taiwan is a good example of a government that is really going out of its way to help Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the field of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

I visited Taiwan two times last year and had the chance to see for myself and study how the Taiwanese government is assisting its SMEs.

“So long as you are willing to make the e-step, a shrimp can be equal to a whale,” are the words of Sun-Quae Lae, director-general of SME Administration with the Taiwanese government.

Under the auspices of the ‘Bridging SME Digital Divide Project’, around 50,000 small and medium enterprises have boarded the e-business bandwagon, creating infinite business opportunities online.

The’Bridging the Digital Divide of the SME Project’ is an important project of the Small and Medium Enterprise Administration, Ministry of Economic Affairs, aiming to help small enterprises with under 20 employees embrace e-commerce.

Thanks to progress in information technology and popularity of the Internet, the threshold for small and medium enterprises to introduce e-commerce has become lower, but to let business owners identify with and personally experience the benefits of e-business poses a major challenge for the promotion of the project.

Fortunately, under the mobilisation of the Information Service Industry Association of the ROC, which is responsible for the execution of the project under the commission of the administration, and 20 municipal computer industry associations, staff of the 12 SME e-Business assisting teams and over 1,000 information service providers have approached renowned scenic spots and remote townships to provide e-commerce painstakingly amongst business owners.

Their efforts have successfully encouraged tens of thousands of small business owners to make the small e-step, allowing them to begin experiencing the power of e-commerce in creating business opportunities.

From its inception in 2005, the project has assisted 16,000 small enterprises to establish Broadband Internet access and 32,000 small enterprises to embrace e-commerce, helping them to create over NT$2 billion in business opportunities and bringing business worth over NT$800 million to information service providers.

Successful and touching episodes abound in the assisting process.

An assisting team, for instance, stepped into the tea business clustered in the mountainous village of Pinglin, helping its tea shops solicit online the return of customer groups, who left following the inauguration of the Snow Mountain Tunnel.

Broadband access has cemented consensus among 10-odd stores in the Aboriginal homeland of Taian village in Miaoli County, whose owners learned computer usage together and successfully landed orders online.

A physically-challenged business owner posted his scuba-diving photos and writings on his experience of the sport on his website, thereby finding many other scuba-diving enthusiasts and customers.

Via the assistance of the project, many people formed into e-clubs, discussing website design together, practicing to use digital cameras for taking and posting commodity photos, and gathering to celebrate the miracles of receiving orders for products or reservations for homestays online from various corners.

E-commerce benefits for small and medium enterprises may not be the most eye-catching and the extent of their e-operations may not be at the highest level.

Their innovative spirit and enthusiasm for personal experience, however, embodies the persevering feature of the 1.22 million Taiwanese SMEs in the face of challenge.

Money is not a problem and technology not a barrier, so long as business owners are willing to take the e-step.

SMEA and the assisting teams would help them achieve business takeoff.

In the foreseeable future, such successful stories will be repeatedly played out in Taiwan, making the industrial digital divide a historical footnote.

“After two years of trial and exploration,” Mr Lai said, “I am glad to take part in the project team, not only having achieved all the goals listed by the project but also grasping the essence for the direction of assisting works, in addition to sophisticated techniques for the execution of the project.

“Therefore, I would like to take the opportunity to express my gratitude for the input and contribution of the Information Service Industry Association of the ROC and the 12 e-operation assisting teams.

“The project has won the ‘e-commerce Ultra-excellence award for the Government Category’ of the e-Asia award, sponsored by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, in 2006, and represented Taiwan in the 2006 APEC e-Asia Awards contest, which underscores the largest confirmation of the efforts brought on by the efforts of the related parties.”