The rapid expansion of the World-Wide Web has led to an increased focus on electronic commerce and the business opportunities the Internet has to offer. Hong Kong Star Internet is a leading Internet service provider and a firm believer in the future of electronic commerce. 'It is only a matter of time before electronic commerce succeeds in a big way,' a company spokesperson said. According to recent reports on electronic commerce and the Internet, the overall Internet economy is expected to reach US$200 billion by the year 2000. It is presently around $15 billion. In the Asia-Pacific region, Internet commerce is expected to reach US$1.142 billion by 2000, a growth rate of 216 per cent. It is this predicted growth in on-line commerce that has led Hong Kong Star Internet to introduce its Mega Mall, which it will launch next month. The company's purpose in establishing the Mega Mall is 'to establish electronic commerce as a formidable second channel for commercial activities and to cultivate the on-line electronic commerce culture so that on-line shopping becomes a part of daily life'. It claims the Mega Mall will be the largest on-line shopping mall in Hong Kong, with more than 100 vendors by the end of next year. The company hopes to have more than 5,000 items for sale by the first quarter of 1998. The Mega Mall will sell computer products, sports equipment, gifts and collectibles, clothing, books, electrical appliances, audio-visual products, toys and games as well as food and catering services. Star Internet is promoting it as an 'all-in-one paradise'. 'The Mega Mall will provide a user-friendly virtual shopping environment while Star Internet will provide a technological platform to ensure both merchants and customers a secure transaction service,' the spokesman said. The Mega Mall will be introduced in three stages. Phase I will be launched from December to March and is expected to include a department store with over 1,000 products and a minimum of 30 retailers by the end of the phase. A monthly turnover of $1 million with an expected increase of 3-5 per cent per month is being forecast. During the first phase, customers will be restricted to Star Internet users, although non-users will be able to 'window shop'. Phase II will be introduced from April to July when the customer base will be extended to include non- Star Internet users. SET technology will also be introduced to ensure world standard secure transaction facilities. When Phase III is introduced between August and December, the Mega Mall will become fully operational. According to Star Internet this will include thousands of product items, a minimum of 80 retailers and a monthly turnover figure of $2.2 million. 'We will also be introducing a range of value-added features in each phase so that Mega Mall just keeps getting better and customers and retailers will use it as a true electronic commerce platform,' the spokesman said. These value-added services will include a search engine, Smart buys - a Consumer Council-approved product resource- and shopping recommendations.