A nationwide network of online local communities, providing an easy route to web presence for small businesses, services, clubs and associations, is being set up by Ardeo, an e-commerce software vendor.

Ardeo is currently recruiting Ardeo Business Centres (ABCs), who will host the community and help the local services and businesses set up their web shopfront. There are now over 40 ABCs in the UK, Ardeo aims to have 400 by March next year.

Obviously, Ardeo’s aim is sell more of its software: Tradexchange, on which the online community is based; and ShopinaBox, its £99 web shopfront package. But ABCs will provide a quick and inexpensive way for organisations which consider themselves too under-resourced for an individual website to gain web presence in their local community.

ABCs will provide a basic listing – the equivalent of an online phonebook entry – free of charge. Local organisations can then progress from static ‘brochureware’, for example a list of services and products available, to a fully transactional site with up to 15,000 line items and automatic inventory replenishment.

For examples of ABCs see www.kingstonlink.co.uk or www.gobury.com or www.ourworcester.co.uk.

“While big companies are talking about the internet in terms of globalisation, we want to use it to build and strengthen communities,” said Peter Karamapu, managing director of Ardeo.