Putting "E" to Work

Article excerpt

CHALLENGES

A fundamental question for firms today is, "How can 'e' help me compete?"

From agriculture to industrial products, consumer goods and professional services, information and communications technologies (ICTs) matter. Firms can apply them to save costs when they conduct market research, organize export processes, and manage payments and customer relations.

Recognizing the potential of ICTs is one thing; applying them to boost the bottom line is another. Faced with a sometimes bewildering choice of e-business solutions, small exporters need to know which applications will boost visibility, improve efficiency or enhance products. They cover a wide range: developing a web site; using business-to-business e-marketplaces; using mobile phones to manage supply and distribution chains; and more.

ICTs also open up new opportunities to export e-related products and services, such as computer components, software programming and back-office services. But unless they're informed and competent in using ICTs, firms can't take advantage of new opportunities.

In developing countries, where Internet connections are often limited or expensive, it can be a major challenge to develop an e-culture and apply "e" creatively to trade.

Putting "e" to work for trade doesn't happen automatically: countries need to manage the process. They need e-trade strategies that go beyond the issue of connectivity and address business realities like trust, costs and industry structures. They need the essentials such as access to finance, roads, transport and energy.

With those foundations in place, ICTs can help developing country firms bridge the digital divide and leapfrog growth.

SOLUTIONS

* E-readiness. If a country is e-ready in terms of its population's culture and skills, it's more likely to apply ICTs successfully to trade. …