Mobile technologies can boost SME’s

Mobile telecommunications research, SME Research

Small businesses in South Africa are struggling to get to grips with advanced new mobile technologies, despite the advantages they offer, according to the latest findings of the Mobility 2006 research project.This was among the key conclusions of a study conducted by World Wide Worx as part of its Mobility 2006 project, backed by First National Bank (FNB), Virgin Mobile and Verizon Business. In the first phase of the project, entitled “The Impact of Mobile Technology on SMEs in South Africa 2006”, 1 152 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) were interviewed on their deployment and usage of mobile technologies. The findings, released today, reveal that SMEs are at a great disadvantage to large corporates in their ability to make new mobile technologies work for them.

More than half of SMEs, or 53% of respondents, felt they were advanced in their usage of common mobile technologies like laptops and cellular phones. However, less than a fifth – only 17% of respondents – believed they were advanced in their usage of more complex technologies like wireless networking and mobile broadband technology.

“We have only seen the start of the adoption of cellphone banking services by SMEs. The challenge will be for banks to design and offer services to SMEs that will give them access to the same services and functionality that big corporates currently have, but at an affordable cost,” says Len Pienaar, CEO of FNB Mobile and Transact Solutions.

Underlining the findings of the SME phase of the research, it was found that only 17% of SMEs who use mobile technologies were using wireless broadband services like 3G and MyWireless, and most respondents did not intend to change their connectivity habits in the next year.

“This emphasizes a phenomenon we have come across in related research, which shows that SMEs are resistant to change and require a strong educational approach in any effort to sell new technology to them,” says World Wide Worx managing director Arthur Goldstuck.

It is expected that the next phase of the study, on corporate use of mobile technologies, will show that large organisations are dramatically more advanced in their use of mobile technologies. Preliminary data suggests that they are able to leverage these technologies to give themselves a competitive advantage over those who are at only a basic level of use.

These findings will be further explored at the Mobility 2006 conference in Johannesburg on September 14, which will also see the release of research into consumer usage of mobile technologies in South Africa.

“Corporate South Africa is embracing mobile and wireless technologies at a rapidly increasing pace, but small business is being left behind as the options become too complex and the choice too bewildering,” says Goldstuck, who will present the core findings of the SME and corporate phases of Mobility 2006. “We will address the key question of how the technology can be leveraged to ensure the benefit flows through to all.”

“As we have seen with consumers, whatever mobile service is offered to SMEs, it has to be easy to register for and simple to use,” concludes Pienaar.

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