The study found that the basic ICT technologies such as telephone, fax, e-mail and Internet are already available in most SMEs. Most of the respondents agree that ICT is important and that it has an impact on their business in one way or the other. However, they have no idea what the knowledge economy is. The biggest barrier to competitive implementation of ICT in their businesses is a lack of knowledge and expertise on all ICT aspects. This leads to poor decision-making regarding ICT, a lack of trust in the value and security of ICT, failure to take advantage of the benefits that even the simple technologies could give the business, and failure to utilise no-cost/low-cost software options. This research has shown that the key reason for SMEs’ failure to implement ICT to their competitive advantage is the lack of ICT knowledge, which leads to the failure to include ICT as a strategic and operational tool for business.
The suggested ways in which SMEs can use ICT to become competitive are:
Set up an ICT strategy for the business. This means a strategy of how technology will be used to help the business achieve its objectives and optimise its business processes. This would include choosing the type of technology, infrastructure and architecture that will best achieve business goals and maximise benefits.
Align the business strategy with the ICT strategy. This means that the ICT strategy should support the business strategy. ICT should not run the business.
Identify ICT roles needed to make the adoption process successful. These roles are, for example, the driver of ICT, the maintainer, or the administrator. SMEs should hire knowledgeable staff or consult with ICT professionals.
The research has therefore indicated the need for SMEs to implement ICT in order to be competitive. ICT adds value and will be a competitive tool when it forms part of the business strategy and when the necessary ICT skills and knowledge are within the SME. All SMEs in South Africa need to seriously
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