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The Role of Culture in Global E-Commerce

            Before the commercialization of the Internet in the early 1990’s, geographical constraints hindered many small and mid-market sized companies from expanding globally. Since the Internet’s introduction to the field of commerce, many industries (especially the retail industry) have taken full advantage of the lack of geographical restraints and have begun to target the global market. Many companies mistakenly assume, however, that having a “globally accessible website” is the equivalent to having a global market. A nation’s sensitivity towards foreign cultural contamination and influence strongly influences their degree of toleration. In order to take full advantage of Global E-Commerce, one must have an understanding of national and cultural differences and how these differences shape the levels of technological adoption, Internet usage, and Internet commerce.
             There are several factors which can either enhance or deter a nation’s willingness to conduct business online. Nations are distinct on several levels, ranging from the individual level purchase preferences and concerns about security to national telecommunications infrastructures and regulatory issues intended to encourage or protect a country. These differences can best be understood by identifying and defining an intricate set of distinct national characteristics that define the global Internet culture. In the case study, Kaarst-Brown and Evaristo (2002, pg. 257) identifies five levels of influence that should be considered when determining how culture shapes global electronic commerce: International/Cross-national Level Issues, National Level Issues, Regional/Industry Level Issues, Firm Level Issues, and Individual Level Issues.
             The International/Cross-national Level concerns issues dealing with interaction between nations. To better understand the cultural elements of these issues, it is necessary to explore historical alliances, trade sanctions and organizations, and the differences in currency valuation.