Small firms are failing to make use of vital information and communications technology because they do not get enough help from software and telecommunications service suppliers.
The Left-leaning think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, criticises the government’s Information Society Initiative, aimed at raising awareness of such technology, claiming it is poorly focused and underfunded.
Small firms could make use of technologies such as electronic data interchange and the Internet to improve competitiveness, says the institute’s report, Small Firms On-Line, published this week. But services are largely focused on large firms rather than small companies.
The IPPR report says nearly half of all firms with fewer than 100 employees do not even have a desktop computer. It calls for a dialogue between service suppliers and small firms to develop IT applications more closely tailored to their needs.
Small firms could benefit from electronic networking to help develop new products. But government initiatives to encourage networking should be targeted on firms already using IT.
The report says surveys show `there is a feeling that, especially for smaller firms, the Internet could be the vehicle for electronic commerce in the future’. It quotes a British Chambers of Commerce survey where 41% of firms not connected to the Net said they would get connected if it reached government services.