In the present era, acquiring Information & Communication Technology (ICT) to support business needs, regardless of business size, is a crucial prerequisite to exploiting the potential of Information Technology (IT). ICT has marked its presence in almost all kinds of businesses world over providing immense opportunities to prop up the competitiveness of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It has also been proved as a powerful means to reduce geographical distances for two partnering organisations based in different parts of the world. Illiteracy in IT greatly reduces the competitiveness of an enterprise. ICT intensely interlinks enterprises across its internal as well as external value chain. Information is very important tool for the budding entrepreneurs and existing SMEs to sustain their business so much so that it can be considered as the fourth business resource apart from land, labor and capital. It would not be exaggerating to say that sectors where current laws or regulations do not cover ICT use, businesses face grey areas instead of reliable and transparent rules.
The way in which people access information and services is changing, as are the structure and make-up of societies. As a result, the way of doing business has to change, and for the SMEs this could be a real challenge. In the era of the knowledge society and cutting-edge applications, ICTs make possible innovative approaches and out-of-the-box solutions, and can place developing countries on a path of rapid growth. ICTs have altered the rules of the game and expectations of the new digital and interconnected economies across the globe. Adoption of ICT, therefore, enable SMEs, among others, to:
- Expedite the communication process and, thus, help save time and money;
- Monitor movement of goods, correspondence and documents;
- Source required information and data about product, services, market and commercial intelligence and technological information;
- Widely publicise products and services through websites, thus, eliminating the requirement for physical space;
- Solicit consumer/user’s feedback on their products/services, which could help improve their business;
- Acquaint interested business partners with updated information on the company by hosting virtual tour of the facilities;
- Upgrade management and workers’ skill through online training programmes;
- Have online expert consultations/ advice for solutions to issues;
- Conduct e-business;
- Avail cost saving solutions by optimising production, transportation, taxes, financial settlements, etc.;
- Improve the services and competitiveness;
- Expand globally to foreign markets easily;
- Have a better management control through intranet facility; and
- Obviate maintenance of the voluminous filing system by computerising records.
ICT offers unprecedented ways to establish new relationships between businesses across borders and markets and has opened up new opportunities for businesses, especially in developing countries, to grow and thrive within their regions and beyond. The role of ICTs in advancing the growth of national economies through enhanced efficiency and productivity, and expanded market reach is both undisputed and irreversible.
A major area of concern, both at national and international levels, has been how to encourage the use of ICT by SMEs since it facilitates tapping new business opportunities effectively at economical cost. Though policy makers and SMEs themselves recognise the benefits of application of ICT as a business tool, its application, particularly in developing countries and economies in transition, is yet to pick up due to several infrastructural and operational limitations. Besides, SMEs are not fully aware of the potentials of the modern technologies. The ICT-based solutions (financial transactions, electronic payments and privacy), viewed with suspicion, are proved to be detrimental for diffusion of ICT solutions in SMEs.
It is within this vein that adequate and strategic attention has to be placed so that these new opportunities provided by ICTs are not purely limited and accessible only by the larger corporations within national economies.
We are committed to enhance the diffusion of ICT among SMEs across all regions and countries of the world so as to improve their competitiveness. ISSME undertakes ICT surveys in different countries and regions and brings out publication showcasing tangible growth due to adoption of ICT by a firm.