Australia: ICT Usage by Businesses: Electronic Commerce & E-Business
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Australian businesses are playing a critical role in the
development of the information economy through the strategic application of
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to core business activities
such as supply-chain management and customer service delivery. While both areas
have significant potential for sustained productivity growth and ultimately,
return on investment, it is in the area of electronic service delivery that the
greatest potential exists for facilitating widespread and intensive use of the
Internet amongst Australians in general.
The emergence of web based electronic service delivery in areas such as e-government, banking and finance, bill payment, general retail, entertainment, education and general information, is shaping Internet use and influencing more Australians to go online. Electronic service delivery is now a key component of organizational business plans, providing opportunities to reach out to markets not normally accessible through traditional communication channels which are unable to offer the convenience of twenty four hour service or the visual sophistication of the World Wide Web.
If a certain level of technological sophistication is a necessity in terms of participating in the information economy, then the following section on technology use by Australian businesses will provide some insight into their preparedness to deliver services online. The metrics presented relate to the adoption and application of core ICTs such as computers, the Internet and web sites.
Computer & Internet Usage by Business:
On the basis of available ABS data, business use of computers and the Internet
was already very high at June 2002, in excess of 80% and 70% of businesses
respectively. However, as with technology adoption in the household sector,
levels of technology usage varied on the basis of the operating characteristics
of businesses (ie employer size and industry of operation).
For businesses with more than 19 employees, the ABS found that PC and Internet penetration levels were already in excess of 90% while for businesses with 5-19 employees, computer and Internet use was above 90% and 80% respectively.
While technology usage amongst micro businesses (less than 5 employees) was at least 12 percentage points behind other businesses, PC and Internet usage amongst these businesses was still high, nearly 80% in terms of computer usage and 65% in terms of Internet use.
Industry sectors such as property & business services (87%), finance and insurance (84%), mining (81%) and cultural and recreational services (80%) had the highest level of Internet use compared to personal & other services (53%), accommodation, cafes & restaurants (57%), which had the lowest levels of Internet use.
|While levels of technology adoption are an important part in assessing
the e-readiness of business, how business are applying key technologies such
as the Internet, is critical to understanding how these technologies are
underpinning the process of organizational transformation which is changing
traditional business practices in Australia.
On the basis of ABS data, businesses mostly used the Internet for correspondence, and to manage inter-business commerce. ABS data showed that at June 2002, of the 474,000 businesses online :
Small to Medium sized Enterprises (SME):
ABS findings were further corroborated by the findings of the Yellow Pages Index, which surveyed Internet use amongst Australian small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Yellow pages data for 2003 showed that the main reasons for SMEs connecting to the Internet were to provide better customer service (68%), to improve the delivery of goods and services (45%), to promote the company more effectively and to make business transactions cheaper (43% each) .
The top five online activities undertaken by SMEs were:
When identifying inhibitors to adopting e-business, SMEs commonly cite access to information and skills, and lack of practical understanding of the business case for e-business among the major impediments. While the full range of issues are numerous they can be broadly defined as falling into three key categories: (1) understanding the business case; (2) e-business enablers, and; (3) security and legal issues .
To overcome these obstacles the Australian Government has aggressively funding programs directed at SMEs. One such is the Information Technology Online (ITOL) Funding Program (ITOL). ITOL is an Australian Government funding program that supports the take up of collaborative e-business across a wide range of industry sectors by offering competitive funding of up to $200,000, .
The objectives of the ITOL Program are to provide assistance to a broad range of activities throughout Australia that:
Another SME directed initiative is the e-businessguide website and booklet launched in June of 2003. The e-businessguide had been funded by the Government to provide straightforward information and guidance on e-business for small businesses operating across Australia. The guide builds on the $21.8 million Small Business Assistance Package announced by the Government in 2001, which included $6.5 million to help small businesses build online strategies. Workshops on the e-businessguide are held for small business advisers in nine metropolitan and 27 regional locations across Australia to enable them to use the website and booklet in their day-to-day contact with small business.