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Russian party boy secludes himself in Web experiment
MOSCOW, Russia (Reuters) -- At 4 p.m. on a Monday afternoon in late November, Fyodor Pavlov-Andreyevich closed the door on his worldly life as the editor of a Moscow teen magazine and became iOne, a cybermonk on an online crusade.
"I am hereby obliged not to go outside," intoned Pavlov-Andreyevich, dressed in a patchwork 'cybersuit' made by a local designer, as a military band played outside the apartment building, where he was to be cloistered for three weeks.
"Looking out the window is allowed, though. I am hereby obliged to use only the Internet to communicate with the outside world."
Pavlov-Andreyevich/iOne, professed lover of rap, funk, R&B, house, early Fassbinder films and fashion, was alone in an empty 1,679 square foot (156 square meters) apartment.
He has two computers, a dedicated line, three Webcams and a credit card with a $500 limit to sustain his life.
Unlike the American DotComGuy, a former systems manager who earns a salary promoting e-commerce by living off his computer and credit card, iOne's financial sponsor, Alfa-Bank, told him to obtain credit and test his entrepreneurial skills on the Web.
IOne's Internet odyssey was dreamed up by Andersen Consulting as a combined promotion and study of buying habits in Russia's fledgling e-commerce business.
Of the $200 billion in e-commerce revenues worldwide predicted by Andersen Consulting, Russian ventures will probably account for only a few million dollars.
There are still barely a couple of million Internet users in Russia in a population of about 146 million. E-commerce opportunities are limited by the weak purchasing power of most Russians and lack of reliable non-cash payment methods.
Russian e-commerce still in infancy
Russia is slowly developing business to business, or B2B, Internet services in a bid to improve the efficiency of companies and bridge a gap with Western counterparts. Business to Consumer, or B2C, remains in its infancy.
Russian Internet retailers, or e-tailers, are rare. Very few local sites allow users to pick out goods and actually pay for them online. In Moscow, only four or five companies sell food online, and these sites do not always work.
"We will see what the Internet offers today, what it will offer tomorrow, and what it will never offer at all," said Yuri Katzman, director for new projects at the Kommersant Publishing House, which is sponsoring the iOne project with Andersen Consulting.
For entertainment, Pavlov-Andreyevich invited an alternative rock star for a concert in his apartment and a fashionable director to stage fragments of his latest play, all Webcast on his site, www.ione.ru.
He also signed up for online Spanish courses so that he can chat online with a counterpart in Chile. He'll call up his girlfriend on ICQ and invite her for company.
But she is barred from bringing him food, and he isn't very clear on how he's going to feed himself.
Pavlov-Andreyevich -- a vegan to boot -- says he's never bought anything online in his life.
Russian iOne has 'dotcoza' to dinner
As he started his cyber seclusion, iOne said he was hoping for some advice from his first dinner guest, dotcoza, aka Chris Botha, a Johannesburg resident who served in Andersen Consulting's first emerging markets e-commerce experiment.
Botha, who came to Moscow for the launch of the iOne project, said that in the early days of South African e-commerce, he found ordered goods would fail to arrive because of poor infrastructure.
Katzman said the fledgling state of Russian e-commerce meant iOne wouldn't be able to stay in his "kiberdom" (cyberhouse) for more than three weeks.
"Today there are some goods and some services you can't find online," Katzman said, naming medical and housekeeping services.
"This is a big problem," iOne said, surveying the mud tracked into the Kiberdom by an army of television journalists.
"I haven't been able to find a virtual maid. I'll have to go on an auction site and may be some kind woman will respond. May be a virtual maid has a card reader on her arm so I can pay with credit."
Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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