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What to make of the Internet: the ICDT Model, Albert A. Angehrn

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The Internet, and its related basic services, such as electronic mail and the World Wide Web, have created a new space in which to do business [Press 1994; Cockburn & Wilson 1996]. This has given economic agents - whether individuals or companies - alternative channels for exchanging information, communicating, distributing different types of products and services, and initiating formal business transactions. The ICDT model [Angehrn 1997] (see figure 1 below) takes its name from the four "virtual spaces" created by the Internet: a Virtual Information Space, a Virtual Communication Space, a Virtual Distribution Space, and a Virtual Transaction Space. The four spaces are treated separately because they correspond to different strategic objectives and require different types of investment, and organizational adjustments.

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Figure 1: The four Virtual Business Spaces
The Virtual Information Space (VIS) is about visibility. It operates like a large billboard. It shows who's who, what's available, how much it costs and so on. It may offer flexible access which allows visitors to "choose their own path" but it remains a one-way communication channel.

The Virtual Communication Space (VCS) is about interaction. Like a café, it is provides a "space" for engaging in relationship-building, exchange of ideas or opinions. The "space" itself can range from a simple chat-line to a sophisticated 3D space in which individuals "meet". Members of the virtual community can communicate at high speed, low cost, and bypass traditional physical and geographical constraints.

The Virtual Distribution Space (VDS) is about service delivery. As with the postal service, there are constraints on the types of items that can be delivered through this channel - it is only suitable for products and services which can be wholly or partly digitalized. Also the recipient takes "something" away, but payment itself happens elsewhere.

The Virtual Transaction Space (VTS) is about trading. It is a bit like a stock exchange in that goods and services are not transferred in this space - only orders, commitments, invoices or transfers of payment.

The ICDT Model is generic. It has already been used to diagnose the Internet "maturity"/strategies of whole sectors, such as banking [Angehrn & Meyer 1997]. It also serves to structure and detect opportunities in individual companies. Our aim here is to use it to consider separately how the Internet potentially improves a company's external linkages (with markets and resources), and can be used to enhance internal communications and processes.

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