Statistics Canada turns to Teranet for e-commerce

After shopping around for seven years, Statistics Canada says it has finally found an e-commerce partner with some staying power.

The federal department said it has formed an agreement whereby Teranet Enterprises Inc., best known for creating Ontario’s land registry service, will supply transaction management services for its online store. Teranet was a public-private partnership until August, when Ontario sold off its half-interest stake to Termina.

StatsCan has been providing online retail services through its Web site since 1996, according to its chief of e-business services, Dan McCorkell, first through a pilot project with TD Bank and Internet service provider Open Market. When Open Market exited the ISP business, StatsCan moved over to iStar, which was later bought by PSINet, which later moved out of the e-commerce business. Eventually StatsCan tried a couple more partners, including a U.S.-based ISP and then BCE Emergis, which also changed direction following a strategic realignment.

McCorkell said Teranet’s long history in providing services to government made it a more stable option for StatsCan.

“”You’re always looking at somebody’s who’s leading in the business,”” he said. “”They weren’t going to make that decision that everyone else did and say, ‘We don’t want to be in this business.'””

Teranet also had considerable experience in providing services in both official languages, McCorkell said, and could offer more flexibility in terms of providing services. Under the terms of the agreement, Teranet will use an application called Unity to handle the calculation and flow of funds as users purchase research studies or other information from StatsCan. Details of each transaction are posted directly to the accounting system to ensure efficient settlement and reconciliation, which can be allocated from several accounts. Audit details are also captured for the purpose of cross-referencing and confirmation. Most significantly, McCorkell said, the application will resemble a StatsCan page. In the past, users would be taken from the StatsCan site to a much different-looking provider’s page (like Emergis, for example) before they completed their transaction.

Teranet director of e-goverment services Mike Power said the white labelling approach will likely be key to its success with other federal or provincial departments.

“”They don’t want to have (customers) feel that they’re being traversed to a different site and say, ‘Now my credit card is at risk. I was trusting Stats Canada to make sure it only applied to this transaction, but now I’m dealing with a company I don’t recognize,'”” he said. “”It may result in the diminishing of some security around the transaction.””

McCorkell said StatsCan prefers a shared environment because it wants to focus on producing content. Besides its regular research reports, it also offers for sale two of its most popular databases, a socio-econominc management information system called CANSIM and the International merchandized trade database, which tracks all commodities that are exported or imported to Canada to and from every country in the world.

“”We don’t have any bestsellers, but we have a lot of titles,”” he said. “”It took a lot of time to transition a lot of that stuff to the Net.””

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