Philippine gov’t to promote small business IT usage

The Philippine Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) is conducting seminars that aim to promote awareness and increase the level of technology usage among the country’s small and medium enterprises or SMEs.

The government’s target is to have at least 200,000 ICT-enabled SMEs by the time President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ends her term in 2010, according to Raul Rodriguez, CICT consultant for the SME sector.

SMEs make up more than 90 percent of total businesses in the country.

But out of a total of 900,000 companies that belong to this segment, Rodriguez said only 30,000 are currently using “some form of ICT,” mostly broadband Internet and business applications like enterprise resource planning (ERP).

The CICT has partnered with a FITDEV, a nongovernmental organization that works with the commission in conducting three-day seminars aimed at helping small companies analyze and identify what processes in their businesses requires the most need for technology.

“A user may find a new technology that enables a new process, which totally redefines the business,” Rodriguez said during the Computerworld Philippines Executive Briefing held in Cebu City.

Small businesses usually start getting acquainted with technology by using email and building a Web site meant to promote products and services. As the business grows, they begin investing in automation such as building a database of suppliers and customers or using software that manages inventory.

“These are some of the tools that we find SMEs adapt to readily,” said Rodriguez, also mentioning accounting software and security tools such as anti-virus software.

But aside from lack of budget, most SMEs are either totally unaware of the business benefits of technology or do not know how to start deploying automation. How to sustain an up-to-date and reliable ICT infrastructure is also a key issue.

CICT’s strategy involves is partnering with financing or lending institutions and accrediting local solution providers to enable SMEs better access to technology.

The commission, along with the Department of Trade and Industry, also plans to establish a help-desk support system to answer inquiries from SMEs.