The purpose of this paper is to report findings of a study conducted on micro and small enterprises (SMEs) from selected regions of Spain, Portugal and Poland, and to compare them with the results of a similar survey carried out in California (USA). The European and US research studies focus on issues regarding the use of information and communication technology (ICT) solutions by SMEs and digital divide phenomena which exist between SMEs and large corporations.
The data collected during face‐to‐face interviews with SMEs' owner–managers and employees from Spain, Portugal, Poland and the USA were used for making a comparative analysis based on descriptive statistical methods. Analyzing the barriers that discourage SMEs from using information and communication technology (ICT) and e‐Business solutions in their business processes made it possible to identify the reasons for SMEs being on the “wrong side” of the digital divide.
The paper argues that the main barrier to better utilization of ICT and e‐Business, and thus the main reason why SMEs face a digital divide, is not so much the lack of access to information technology (“material access” barrier) as the lack of proper knowledge, education and skilled owner‐managers and employees within the enterprise (“skills access” barrier). As long as European SMEs do not realize this fact, so long will the scale of the digital divide in Europe continue to grow.
The main limitation of the approach presented in this paper is related to the sample differences between Spain, Portugal, Poland and the USA. This made it impossible to carry out precise comparative statistical analysis of the results. Despite these methodological imperfections, it was possible to put forward certain recommendations on the directions of activities focusing on enhancing e‐Business adoption in SMEs. The main conclusion is that the actions aimed at bridging the digital divide in SMEs should concentrate on overcoming the “skills access” and “usage access” barriers within SMEs, not the material ones.
The comparison of the way these problems are perceived by European and US owner‐managers is an added value of the paper, which brings new content to the existing discussion on barriers to the implementation of ICTs in SMEs. This approach is a step forward in analyzing the determinants and the mechanism of the digital divide within SMEs and has the potential to diminish the scale of this problem.
Arendt, L. (2008), "Barriers to ICT adoption in SMEs: how to bridge the digital divide?", Journal of Systems and Information Technology, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 93-108. https://doi.org/10.1108/13287260810897738Download as .RIS
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