Electronic commerce suppliers are failing to offer small and medium enterprises products that fully meet their needs, said the UK minister responsible for small businesses last week.
Barbara Roche, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department of Trade and Industry, told the Electronic Commerce conference in London that, although smaller companies were the most likely to benefit from using Ecommerce, they were not being given sufficient support and opportunity to take advantage of it.
"Looking at what smaller companies are being offered in electronic commerce, sometimes the products are not properly tailored to the use of SMEs and I think that is a challenge to the IT industry," said Roche.
Citing a recent DTI comparison of the UK's IT compared with that of four major international competitors, she pointed out that, while the vast majority of UK companies have PCs, only half are using Email and more than half do not believe their staff have the training and skills to effectively use new technology.
"Many companies have the hardware but have yet to progress beyond simple word processing," Roche added.
However, she failed to address the criticisms levelled against the government by Peter Blampied, commercial marketing manager at Compaq UK. He told PC Week (21 October issue) that the current government schemes are failing to provide small businesses with appropriate IT advice, and that support for small businesses is "extremely patchy".
Roche claimed the government is promoting electronic commerce through local initiatives via the Business Links scheme for SMEs, and new technology pilots, as well as through centralised projects such as the Internet Enterprise Zone, which enables companies to access support information via the web.
"I very strongly believe that electronic commerce gives the potential for small businesses in the UK to compete with the biggest, both nationally and internationally," Roche concluded. She claimed the work currently being done under the Information Age initiative was the most wide ranging consultation that has ever been carried out by government.
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