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MSME tech boost needed. Firms missing out on ICT opportunities, study shows

Published:Monday | October 27, 2014 | 10:00 AM
Lisa Taylor-Stone. Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

THE INCORPORATION of technology in business operations is "an area of major need" for the country's micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), a recent survey conducted among the players in the sector has found.

Lisa Taylor-Stone, manager of projects and research at the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), said businesses would be enhanced with the incorporation of information communication technology.

"We are talking about business processes and outsourcing. We are also talking about innovation and technology, and taking advantage of whatever processes or equipment would be needed to move the business from one level to the next," the researcher said.

Taylor-Stone, who was a guest at a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week, said while some MSME players use their cellular or fixed-line phones to make calls in support of business activities, "many MSMEs are still not utilising the full potential of social marketing and the power of that particular tool to enhance business growth".

"It is concerning for me personally and for the JBDC as well. When you look at the global market and the potential for business process outsourcing, this is a US multibillion-dollar market and because of the inability of the MSMEs to utilise because of low capacity, it really does them a disservice in terms of growing their revenue beyond measures," Taylor-Stone said.

The national MSME policy document, published in 2013, has said there are numerous challenges facing MSMEs in Jamaica, which are both internal and external to their operations. It notes that many businesses are characterised by entrepreneurs that lack marketing capacity and broad operational capacity, business leadership, communication and technical skills, and

are unfamiliar with available business support services.

"In addition, training and other forms of business development support for the sector are lacking while there appear to be low capacity for innovation and low utilisation of technology among Jamaican MSMEs, factors which also stymie productivity and competitiveness in the sector," the document said.

Jermaine Robinson, a social media consultant, told The Gleaner that there is an abundance of open source applications online, for which persons do not have to pay any money, that can be used to enhance business growth. He noted that there is free customer service software, e-commerce platforms, such as Paypal, which enable payments and money transfers to be made through the Internet, and free training and marketing portals which can all be tapped to boost the position of MSMEs.

Based on the preliminary report of a needs assessment report for MSMEs in St James, 57 per cent of the respondents regarded the use of the Internet as a need, 54 per cent saw the development of a website as something that would propel the business, and 48 per cent regarded the computerisation of the business as being some sort of need.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com