Saturday, April 24, 2004

Government and the entrepreneurial spirit 

The Singapore government has, for some time, been trying to foster entrepreneurship in Singapore. Apparently, last week it succeeded in an unintended way.

According to a story in The Business Times today, on 16 April, the government portal for online procurement by Singapore's public sector, GeBIZ, started sending out pre-programmed email reminders to inform suppliers of the April 30 deadline for the payment of annual subscription fees.

However, a programming error caused 21 of the emails to have additional addresses unintentionally attached to them. As a result, 5,871 companies received the emails meant for the 21, and all 5,871 received each other's email addresses.

While some of the addressees were upset at the error, others took the opportunity to introduce themselves to the other addressees. "Soon, email solicitations for business were flying across the web," reported The Business Times.

According to the newspapaer, "a number of companies that spoke to BT viewed what happened as being, on the whole, a 'happy accident'. Wendy Wee, sales executive of a company that supplies audio-visual solutions, said: 'I am now linked to other suppliers and customers . . . It's a cool way to keep in touch.'"

A sales manager of a supplier of servers reportedly said that he managed to get new business leads as a result of emails that he sent out. Another said his business association "managed to link up with many companies as a result of the ready-made 'introduction service' provided by the email list".

That's true entrepreneurial spirit for you. I doubt, though, that it's the kind of role the government had in mind when it set itself the task of promoting entrepreneurship.


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