E-BUSINESS: Virtual shopping still faces obstacles in the CR
The latest survey conducted by GfK revealed that only 34% of Czechs shopped on the internet in 2002, which is about the same as a year before. High prices for internet access, the unwillingness to use credit cards online and insufficient legislation are the main obstacles to the development of electronic shopping in this country. The newly established Ministry of Informatics prepared a document for the government that recommends concrete steps and lists necessary legal amendments. For example, the law on electronic signatures, passed in 2000, should be amended, along with almost ten other laws. In the near future, it should be possible to close contracts or to issue electronic invoices over the internet. The Ministry’s document also includes proposals for amendments of the law on income tax and the law on public procurements.

SOCIETY: New figures for identification
Birth date numbers will be replaced with a new identifier, from which it will not be possible to learn any personal data. The Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Informatics are working together on a project to shift to a new numbering system. The new personal identification number should have ten digits (never beginning with zero). Today, a similar system already works for applicants for state social support. According to the Ministry of Social Affairs, 7.5 million people have already been coded in the framework of this system, which is based on mathematical combinations. The shift to the new identifiers will be gradual, taking over 40 years, including the transition period, when both numbers will be valid.

BUSINESS: Small firms face tough times
According to data from the Czech Statistical Office, the number of small and mid-sized firms declined by over 20% during the past three years. Compared with 1998, when more than 381,000 such firms were registered, in 2001, this figure dropped by more than 98,000. A very significant decrease was recorded in the so-called micro-firms (with one to five employees), which account for 72% of small and mid-sized firms. According to experts, the decline in this area will continue, due mainly to the adoption of stricter laws on bankruptcies and settlements, and because of the difficulty in securing bank loans. The situation of small and mid-sized companies will also be more difficult after EU accession. Because of the difficulty created by competing on a more global market, these firms will have to be more narrowly specialized.

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