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Phone: 593-02-224-2489
/ 245-3664
Fax: 593-02-224-2484
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NuestraPlaza.com, enabling e-commerce for economic development and growth
Objectives:
With the emergence of ICT based communication tools, e-commerce has become a daily fact of life. The objective of the NuestraPlaza.com is to open the channels for small business in Latin America and eventually the developing world to take advantage of the new opportunities for personal and community economic development and growth.
Project Activities:
The NuestraPlaza.com project is to facilitate a virtual inter-active network among small business throughout the Americas and a market place on a local, regional and international level. The project will build on the existing transactional –e-commerce platform of iMallsEcuador and add tools necessary for mentoring, training and knowledge exchange. At the center of NuestraPlaza.com stands a virtual community that through communication, mutual support and knowledge exchange enables, supports, maintains and sustains this virtual market place. NuestraPlaza.com is a www site that has the potential to transform existing and widely used communication and social networking tools into tools for enabling small business to participate more actively in e-commerce and commercial development.
The Open Question:
Entrepreneurs and consumers in the developing world fail to take advantage of the new opportunities for personal economic development and growth. This fact becomes even more puzzling when one takes into account that ICT based tools are currently used to handle billions of USD in remittances funds between North and South.  Why ICT based technologies are not also used to open up local, regional, national as well as new South-North-North-South cross hemispheric marketplaces?
Existing Hurdles:
The answer can not only found in the fact that e-commerce has to overcome logistic problems, such as access to logistics, training and capital, but it has to overcome one even more fundamental barrier: Doing business using e-commerce means doing business in a new and unfamiliar way. Buying and selling using e-commerce is a completely new experience and it is perceived by both, the businesses and their customers as a way to do business that is difficult and full of risks, uncertainties and dangers “Can I trust someone I do not know?” Will my money be safe?”, “What if…?” The worrying questions concerning the use of e-commerce are endless, but these are the fundamental questions both entrepreneurs and their customers are asking, as the answers to these questions affect their lives directly. If e-commerce ever wants to become a relevant factor for economic development for all, these questions need to be addressed.
Using existing technologies, skills and behavior patterns
In contrast, the same entrepreneurs and their customers who perceive e-commerce as “risky business” are at the same time some of the most prolific users of social networking tools, such as Facebook, Twitter and Skype, to name just some. The reason for the importance of these tools is based in the fact that they respond to a direct and basic need of their users. Staying connected with each other is a fundamental need of any person or community living in the context of migration and the ICT based social networking and communication tools are playing a vital role in fulfilling this need. As a result they are widely used and trusted tools.
To enable small business entrepreneurs, especially those outside of the capital cities, to make e-commerce a real factor for private and community development, we need to find ways to connect e-commerce directly into the existing day to day realities and practices of entrepreneurs, their fellow businessmen and customers. This connection is achieved by directing existing familiar, trusted and widely used technologies, skills and behavior patterns towards development orientated e-commerce.
The Community at the center of NuestraPlaza.com
People often define who they are through the communities which they are part of. The primary motivation for partaking in a community is for every individual the same: to benefiting directly from being part of a greater community. Communities are created by implementing win/win situations. In order to achieve its objective the main task of NuestraPlaza.com is to create a site that enables the individual to gain a benefit through become part of the NuestraPlaza.com community.
NuestraPlazas.com role is to enable “Community Users” to participate in “User Communities”. NuestraPlaza.com does achieve this not through creating a community on the platform but through creating a platform that enables multiple communities of all shapes and sizes to create themselves and to flourish. The secret behind the success of the social networking sites and the huge e-commerce sites like eBay is that they do not create communities themselves, they just enable them. Here lies the true strength of NuestraPlaza.com, where it makes the difference where it is different from all the other e-commerce services and platforms out there.
The key to community creation is mutual benefit creation. ICT’s offers a multitude of tools that can provide concrete benefits to its users; the main role of NuestraPlaza.com is to find a way to make these tools accessible and relevant to the user in order to encourage him to create and participate in the user community. The battle between the many platforms on the Internet is not a battle between who is offering the best technology, but who is offering the most perceived gains through the platform to the user. NuestraPlaza.com centers around engaging the user and not on making a sale. Making a sale comes as a result of the overall site experience. Important is here also the issue of trust as making a sale will be easier because the user trusts and identify with the site and this trust is transferred into making a purchase decision and the way the user purchased goods and services.
Geographic Scope:
Defining and focusing on specific geographical areas is important but even more important is to understand that NuestraPlaza.com is serving people who live in very specific cultural and sociological circumstances that cross many geographical boundaries. For example, if we talk about Ecuador, we have to talk at the same time about the migrants in the North. If we talk about the Ecuadorian migrants in Queens we have to talk at the same time about the Peruvian and Colombian migrants with whom they collaborate to a large extent.  NuestraPlaza.com focus is on specific user groups, but it not restricted to specific geographical areas. The site has to been designed in such a way that a “one serves all” framework is used and easily adapted to serve different communities.
The main elements and functions of the NuestraPlaza.com site
Communities are created and maintained on the basis of Communication and NuetsraPlaza.com has to implement many ways to enable this communication and the way to enable the self-creation of communities is to create the tools of communication. This has very concrete implications for the design elements and overall direction/philosophy of the site. NuestraPlaza.com employs three types of Communication tools:

General Communication tools:

VoIP, Call a friend
Chat rooms, Meet friends
Discussion groups,
News
Personal, family and community meeting rooms and message boards.

E-commerce tools and functions:

Classified Ads
On-line Shop
Customer concierge service
E-commerce enabling tools and functions:
Training site
Logistical tools and support
Seller concierge service
The On-line shop
Instead of providing a site with many shops NuestraPlaza like a department store offers a multitude of goods and services under one roof. No need to open up your own store, with all the technical and financial necessities and risks. Like in a real Marketplace situation, all what is needed is to use an existing virtual stall, and the size of the stall and the number of products is completely flexible. No need to “risk all at once” but the e-commerce use of a particular business can grow as the confidence into the new tools grows. Furthermore all technical support and training necessary is provided on site. Each participant will be able to load their products similar to the way FaceBook presently enables individuals to load their personal pages and photos. The vendors just need to agree to a fixed set of rules and regulations
Instead of offering a multitude of catalogues it employs one catalogue with a clear classification system in which the products and services are not listed by vendor but by class. All catalogue entries are performed through an on-line form based system which is backed up by a concierge service for buyers and sellers, (see below).
Vendors and users of the On-Line shop have a number of logistical tools and support available to them:
  1. Electronic Comments and Complaint Box
  2. Direct email and VoIP phone link to NuestraPlaza.com, i.e. helpdesk
  3. Direct link to customer care helpdesk, features of goods and services providers represented at the e-commerce platforms
  4. Electronic shipment tracking
  5. FAQ  and ”What Should I do If” features
The NuestraPlaza.com site contains also a Classified Ads function. Classified ads are nothing but a simple communication tool, which instantly creates a user community which is self creating because it is based on the input of the advertisers and responds to the needs of all its users. They can be very personal, (Wife wanted…., Have you seen my child?); or very business orientated, (For Sale!, Invest in this!).
The Training site
NuestraPlaza.com task is much larger than just to create a communication platform. In order to participate in economic activities, people need to know how to do participate, they need training, face to face and online. NuestraPlaza offers training programs on-line but this training is not enough for many to sell their goods on line, they need “hand holding” and follow up.
The Training section of NuestraPlaza.com provides:
  1. “E-commerce for Beginners” section: One of the basic teaching functions the NuestraPlaza.com platform is to explain to the users of the new e-commerce platforms how these platforms actually work and how they can be used to help grown new markets. The feature contains on-line presentations on how the new e-commerce platforms function and how they can be best utilized targeted to specific audiences: Customers, Entrepreneurs, Businesses and Promoters. Users of the E-Commerce for beginners section have also the option to ask questions directly via email or VoIP to the NuestraPlaza.com helpdesk or seek answers in one of the numerous discussion groups and direct communication opportunities
  2. On line training courses in entrepreneurship, business planning, e-commerce, foreign markets.
  3. Links to distance learning opportunities both nationally and abroad
  4. Mentoring. Mentoring will be a unique offering of the website for SME. Its organization will be involve both networking and email contact as well as direct human interaction and engaging relevant organizations capable of providing mentors. The mentoring process will serve two purposes: First to provide personalized training according to the specific needs of a member business and second to assist the businesses in the creation of a business plan for entry into e-commerce. A major benefit from having a mentor is that they are in a better position to identify resources required to implement the new business, test ideas, make contacts, receive advice and support through access to organizations and individuals involved in the program available.
  5. The Concierge service and the Call centers. The On-line shop is connected to a concierge service. What looks like a customer service, as we support the customer, is in fact the key sales factor. Even if the SME has a web presence it can hardly sell because how do you know that he exists that the product exists. The concierge service is the ideal marketing tool for SME's because when somebody inquires, let’s say somebody enquires about beauty products, the concierge can say: "btw did you know about the existing organic soap from the Canadian First Nations?”The concierge service can direct customers to products they never knew and would know about. The platform should be known as THE site where you can find all these products. Providing a concierge service is a costly undertaking but this problem can be overcome by creating call centers with suitable partners. The call center are operate on a commission basis andhe call centers are getting paid only when a sale is closed. By creating call centers in particular in remote areas NiuestraPlaza also create education and jobs. Creating call centers is fitting hand in clove into the rural broadband initiatives throughout the world.
Discussion Groups and Knowledge Exchanges
One of the core components of the NuestraPlaza.com platform is a facility for entrepreneurs and their customers to ask questions, promote their businesses, exchange their experiences, to engage in online discussions.
The platform will provide every user with the opportunity to be in constant communications with other businesses in the same sector or product group both within national borders and in other countries, to enhance their knowledge with on line learning opportunities, to share experiences and to do market research.  Separate pages for focused Discussion Groups on specific topics in marketing and international trade opportunities will enable the small business to learn from each other as they test and gain experience with different aspects of the market.
The Discussion Groups and Knowledge Exchanges will be monitored and managed by a moderator located at the ChasquiNet office in Quito, Ecuador. The moderator will be in charge of promoting, developing and managing the community. This includes developing and posting contents, channeling and answering questions and requests for information, forming and moderating user groups. Foros and other interactive communication channels, review e-mails and contents of members for compliance with NuestraPlaza.com ethical standards, and manage questionnaires and polls.
ChasquiNet’ and NuestraPlaza.com bilingual staff is well positioned to assume this role since the community will conduct training and communications in both English and Spanish.
This communication section of NuestraPlaza.com contains also a Market of Opportunities, (MoO). The MoO is marketplace of business services, logistics and credit opportunities, new software, exposition of the products of the businesses of the users, business ideas and requests for support. It contains a search engine for goods in the specific product areas and markets and provides the ability to communicate directly (email, chat and VOIP) with the business or services that posted opportunities.An “In Need of Knowledge form” to post needs in a virtual Wall of Opportunity, including looking for partners, or looking for solutions
The NuestraPlaza Classified ads function
Classified ads are nothing but a simple communication tool, which instantly creates a user community which is self creating because it is based on the input of the advertisers and responds to the needs of all its users. They can be very personal, (Wife wanted…., Have you seen my child?); or very business orientated, (For Sale!, Invest in this!).
For suggestions and follow up, please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Project Partners
Fundacion ChasquiNet.
ChasquiNet Foundation, based in Quito, Ecuador, develops and implements since 1998 programs and projects which have a large impact on education, social development and also promotes community knowledge management networks, through strategic use of information and communication technologies (ICT).        
ChasquiNet is a team of professionals promoting the strategic use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for the improvement of living conditions in marginalized sectors. We work at local, national and international levels to promote social and economic policies to support sustainable human development.
The name ChasquiNet was inspired in a Chasqui, the Inca messenger who through a system of posts travelled long distances to get information or goods from one place to another.
ChasquiNet worked and is working with several international agencies such as OAS, the Worldbank and IDRC as well as with private sector companies like Microsoft.
ChasquiNet Foundation was founded in Quito on April 17, 1998. The Foundation was approved by the Ecuadorian ministry of Education and Culture in the "Acuerdo Ministerial No. 979 on May 31st, 1999."
ChasquiNet has an outstanding track record in face to face and online training and it will bring this expertise into all aspects of training proposed for the site. Independent but closely connected to the NuestraPlaza project not only has Chasqinet developed training curriculums but also a specific e-commerce business creation program called the E-Generator
Fundacion ChasquiNet, Quito, Ecuador



 



 
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