Two years and $661,397 later, the Yukon’s E-commerce Project is a digital ghost town.
The government-funded project, links to three consultants—Whitehorse-based Outside the Cube, Montana-based Lone Eagle Consulting and Alaskan-based Watermark Consulting—Yukon Economic Develoment, The Council of Yukon First Nations, Ottawa’s Community Access Program and Alaska eCommerce.
Under the banner “eCommerce Yukon 2007” the site proclaims, “E-commerce is fast becoming a central part of doing business today. The eCommerce Yukon project will be helping Yukon residents build an internet presence.”
There isn’t a single news or events posting in the calendar throughout 2007, 2008 and 2009.
The newsletter section is empty.
The site’s sole phone number doesn’t answer.
Under the Training Program banner, it reads: The core of any e-commerce initiative is a successful training program with long-term goals. This creates a role for multiple skill sets among multiple persons, easing the learning overhead of the entire community, while creating motivated local specialists for the higher tiers of skills in digital photography, art, and web page creations.
“The social recognition for their showcased expertise is intended to motivate generous sharing of skills in the short term. The end goal is to create interesting local jobs for local citizens as they demonstrate that their new skills are indeed worth paying for!”
There’s talk of selling fishing trips in Mayo to anyone in the world. It suggests a viable e-commerce trade could overcome the Yukon’s economic isolation while promoting its cultural gems and creating local income.
But it’s empty.
There’s a file that explains what the steering committee does, but nothing about who sits on the committee.
The project is a partnership of the Council of Yukon First Nations, the Yukon government and Ottawa.
CYFN officials were moving to new offices and not available for comment.
Economic Development officials did not return calls by press time.
A finance and administration report from the Council of First Nations 2007 General Assembly states Teslin was being recruited as a pilot community in June 2007, but there’s no mention of this on the website.
The project intended to use eBay as a starting point, ostensibly to sell local products on the international auction site. But an eBay search for Teslin only found products being sold from Outside.
The e-commerce project was funded by federal grants through the Northern Strategy Trust Fund. Their joint collaboration group, the Yukon Forum, had until 2008 to spend the $40 million trust.
An initial sum of $100,000 was awarded to e-commerce in 2006, according to a press release from December 12, 2006. The next year, another infusion of $561,397 was approved for the project and a site was launched in 2007.
It hasn’t changed much since then.
Only 15.6 per cent of Yukon home-base businesses have a website, and only 36.1 per cent on non-home businesses have one, according to the Yukon’s bureau of statistics.
Nationally, 41 per cent of all businesses have a website according to Statistics Canada. Between 2003 and 2007, sales from e-commerce in Canada more than tripled from $18.9 billion to $62.7 billion according to the same April 2008 numbers.
A rudimentary search of Alaskan e-commerce revealed Arcticways.com, based in Fort Yukon, Alaska.
The site sells First Nations jewelry, carvings and sun catchers from an isolated community that has no road access. It includes features on the artists and the history of the Gwich’in and Koyukon Athabascan peoples who live in the Yukon Flats.
Arcticways.com offers local income that complements a subsistence lifestyle, the website says.
Contact James Munson at