competitive advantage for the business, but when ICT is implemented as part of the business strategy to support the business processes it will probably lead to a competitive advantage. Thus the manner in which SMEs adopt and implement ICT is important as this will determine whether they will gain competitive advantage or not.
SMEs play an important role in the global economy: they contribute to the GDP and reduction of unemployment, especially in developing countries. Many governments around the world are pushing for SMEs to adopt ICT in order for them to survive in the knowledge economy. The South African Government is no exception. The need for SMEs to adopt ICT is driven by governments, globalisation, innovation, flexibility and competitive advantage.
The adoption of ICT should take into consideration that SMEs are different and thus have different needs for ICT. It is important for an SME to adopt ICT solutions that are specific to its needs. A number of barriers make it difficult for SMEs to adopt ICT, such as a lack of knowledge about the strategic use of ICT, a lack of necessary IT skills, perceived high setup cost, the constantly changing ICT environment, and geographical factors. Geographical factors were not examined here, but a new barrier, that of power cuts, was identified – this problem might be unique to South Africa. More research will need to be done to determine this.
The ICT problems in South Africa are both socio-economic and technological, ranging from connectivity problems to ICT-skills needs. South African SMEs should take advantage of various emerging technologies. Even though the problem in rural areas is still bandwidth and availability of networks, mobile technologies have helped to close the gap. The number of cellphones with 3G or high-speed networks has increased. This is a market which the SMEs could be exploiting, whether for marketing purposes or for delivering products or services.
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