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GSA and CommerceNet Launch Catalog Interoperability Study

GSA # 9461

January 29, 1998
Contact: Bill Bearden, (202) 501-1231 or
John Thomas, (202) 208-4552

The U.S. General Services Administration's Federal Electronic Commerce Program Office and CommerceNet have partnered to launch a study to make all Federal government on-line purchasing catalogs interoperable. Following the study, a four-month test by vendors and agencies is planned.

The study is being conducted because operation of separate electronic purchasing catalog systems by agencies throughout the Federal government are costly and inefficient. Vendors are forced to reorganize the same material for use in different agency catalogs. This practice is often cost-prohibitive, especially for smaller vendors. The results of the study will be published and will serve as the basis of a pilot to demonstrate the economic benefits and technical feasibility of catalog interoperability for electronic procurement throughout all Federal government agencies.

A kick-off event for the study will be held on February 2 at 9:30 a.m. at the American Institute of Architects boardroom at 1735 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20006.

The event will feature special perspectives on interoperable catalogs by CommerceNet, private industry, and government. CommerceNet is comprised of about 150 systems companies and Internet service providers and is the premier industry consortium for companies using, promoting and building electronic commerce solutions on the Internet.

The study phase will be completed by the end of February 1998, with the pilot proposal scheduled to be delivered by the end of March 1998. The pilot is expected to take about four months.

To bring the existing federal catalogs to a single design within any reasonable time frame will be difficult. A single solution could limit the flexibility that each agency needs in the implementation, and would also potentially limit the vendors that sell the electronic catalog solutions. The key to solving this problem lies in generating an interoperable solution that all of the independent, proprietary catalogs can communicate and operate within.

The ultimate goal is a robust non-proprietary system. The solution must allow for the independent semantic representations that are inherent in various marketplaces; it must allow for registries, taxonomies, remuneration, authentication, privacy, searching, and a number of other key issues to be done in ways that are transparent to the user. The solution cannot give any particular vendor a competitive advantage in the market place.

CommerceNet proposes to conduct the short-term study and to generate a proposal for conducting a catalog interoperability pilot. The proposal addresses a set of guidelines that will form the basis for conducting that industry-lead study culminating in a focused pilot plan. The study and pilot will address general electronic commerce issues relative to catalog interoperability as well as offer a set of security issues and guidelines.

Anyone interested in participating in the study or actual pilot phases should contact Ron Parsons, director of CommerceNet's Eastern Region. Ron Parsons can be reached by electronic mail at The CommerceNet URL is

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