They adopt e-business to enhance communicationwith both customers (B2C: business-to-customer)and partners in the supply chain (B2B: business-to-business). Usually, the adoption of e-businessthroughout the supply chain imposes e-businessadoption on all businesses that want to keep operatingin that industry. In developed countries, the adoptionof e-business per se may not necessarily bring anycompetitive advantage for the enterprises operating in
the specic sectors of economy mentioned above. It
is only part of the cost of their business. On the other hand, in developing countries, enterprises in these
sectors are in a position to benet from e-business and
gain a competitive advantage.Other sectors of the economy are not yet obligated toadopt e-business systems but may see them as anopportunity to reach a broader market (e.g. handicrafts/artisans, agribusiness). SMEs that adopt e-business inthese sectors usually are export-oriented and use B2Bweb portals to sell their products.E-business portals and e-marketplaces are thepreferable online locations for SMEs to conduct e-
commerce, dened as selling and buying goods and
services through the Internet. The use of such portalshas many advantages for SMEs compared withdeveloping and hosting their own website, particularlythe affordability of the solution and the visibility of well-known e-business portals.Results from the ESCAP project on the development of e-business services for SMEs in the Greater MekongSubregion
countries show that SMEs and enterprisesupport agencies consider e-business portals asadequate e-business development services for SMEs.Portals and e-marketplaces considered as simpleand affordable ways to start e-business and an initialstep prior to more advanced ICT use, such as thedevelopment of dedicated websites.E-commerce conducted by SMEs, including businessutilizing e-business portals, is usually limited topromoting products through the website followed by anexchange of e-mails to set the terms of the purchase(e.g. price, quantity, return policy etc.). Since onlinepayment systems are absent in most countries of the region, the payment is usually conducted off-linethrough traditional means (e.g. bank transfer, courier etc.).
To nd SMEs on the Internetjust visit an e-business portal
While poor ICT infrastructure and a lack of ICT technical
and managerial capacity are limiting factors for e-business adoption among SMEs, the lack of awarenessand understanding of e-business is considered as oneof the key obstacles preventing SMEs from employingICT to enhance their business.Stakeholder consultations conducted by ESCAP in2005 among SMEs and enterprise support agencies
in six GMS countries identied ve top barriers to the
development of e-business services for SMEs:
1. Lack of awareness and understanding of e-
business2. Poor infrastructure3. Lack of human resources4. The lack of a comprehensive legal framework5. Language barriersA lack of awareness regarding the benefits of e-business is usually the case of SMEs in non-export-oriented economic sectors. Since their clients andpartners in the supply chain are also deprived of affordable and adequate ICT access, they do not seeany benefit in adopting ICT in their business. Theylack the managerial and technical capacity to use ICTto improve internal processes and to visualize hiddenopportunities.
Different needs meansdifferent strategies
Companies that see profitability in conducting e-business are clearly willing to invest in the hardwareand obtain connectivity that allows them adequateaccess to the Internet. This suggests that businesses
that are in a position to benet from e-business will plan
for ICT investment as they would for any other businessexpansion plan.Some sectors of the economy are practically required toadopt e-business to remain competitive, and ultimately,in business. The software, manufacturing, tourism andhospitality industries are such examples.
What you don’t know youdon’t miss
Information regarding the ESCAP project entitled “The Developmentof e-Business Development Services for SMEs in Selected ASEAN
Countries and Southern China” is available at: www.unescap.org/