A Beautiful Day In The Virtual Neighborhood?

"Internet communities" (Special Report, May 5) credibly predicts the next step in the Internet's evolution: the building of communities. I agree that community building will have a great impact on the way consumers and merchants conduct electronic commerce. Indeed, the industry knows the prosperity of electronic commerce will be realized only when consumers' fears about privacy and security are alleviated.

Supporting this goal are organizations such as e.TRUST, a nonprofit program that alerts consumers to how their personal information will be used. Boston Consulting Group surveyed consumers and found that they do not feel safe about giving out personal information online. Interestingly, when we asked businesses what their main concerns were regarding electronic commerce, they emphatically pointed to low customer confidence. Community building is a great first step, but we must continue these efforts by supporting initiatives that look out for both consumer and business needs.

Roel Pieper

CEO

Tandem Computers Inc.

Cupertino, Calif.

Today, the real excitement and innovation is in networking real communities--the geographic space where most of us work, live, learn, shop, and vote.

Contrary to general belief, electronic networks strengthen local communities by providing information about what is going on in our towns and counties, by making job listings and candidate election statements more accessible, by facilitating E-mail between parents and teachers, and by creating a forum for discussion of development plans. Look at Blacksburg, Va.; Davis, Calif.; and our Smart Valley Inc. initiative in the Silicon Valley to name but a few examples. Networks are strengthening our communities of place.

Seth G. Fearey

Collaborative Economics Inc.

FoundingDirector, SmartValley Inc.

Palo Alto, Calif.

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