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The focus of this paper is on the above three areas, which reflect some socio- economic issues. Yes, ICT is an enabler and it has a number of benefits, as highlighted by Tregurtha and Vink (2002), such as reduction of cost, network scale and improved service levels, but it is very important to look at the ability of the SMEs to leverage ICT and get the best benefit for their particular model of business.

The lack of knowledge about the strategic use of ICT and lack of the necessary IT skills are the two key issues. Other stumbling blocks are the perceived cost of ICT and the ever-changing ICT environment, together with geographical factors such as rural versus urban areas, as discussed below.

3.6.1 Lack of knowledge about the strategic use of ICT

There is a lack of knowledge about the potential benefits of ICT and strategies to support SMEs in achieving their business objectives. As mentioned before (in Section 3.3.1), SMEs face the challenge that generally they are owner managed and the owner makes all or most of the decisions about the business (strategic direction). Unfortunately the owner-manager’s limitations become limitations of the business. This barrier can be classified as a strategic level problem. ICT needs to be considered a key player in the SME reaching its goals.

3.6.2 Lack of necessary IT skills-base

As already expressed, the owner is the centre of the business, making all or most of the decisions in the small business, so the adoption of ICT by the small business depends on the owner’s ICT skills, personality and attitude towards technology. The IT-skills problem forms part of the bigger problem of a shortage of specialists in IT/ICT in Africa. The South African Government has set up organisations (SETAs) to try to increase ICT skills. However, the owner-managers’ attitudes towards ICT and its value needs to change, and each SME needs expertise to work with. The ideal staff

MIT 840

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