The Jakarta Post
Considered a driving force for the economy and development, more small entrepreneurs are expected to turn to information and communications technology (ICT) to boost their businesses.
Djohan, a decorative fridge magnet maker, was overwhelmed serving a lot of customers at the 16th Jakarta International Handicraft Trade Fair (Inacraft) last week. Just like many other participants, he made many sales during the event.
This kind of fair is very good for vendors like me who don't have any shop or outlet to display my products. So far, I only market my products via a free Internet page. I think I will make a website later, but so far a Facebook profile has been helpful for my business,' he said.
He said he ran his business from a place in North Jakarta and could net at least Rp 5 million in profit per month. Interestingly, as a graduate of a computer science school, Djohan did not think that ICT was the key factor in helping him run his business.
'I only use Microsoft Excel to compile orders, consignments and other related things. I use the Internet as I receive most orders from my Facebook page,' he said.
Similarly, Sri Sulastri, a shell beaded curtain and lamp cover maker from Kepulauan Seribu, North Jakarta, said she did not use ICT much.
'I only use a computer for limited activities, such as to get fresh ideas for designs. For sales and marketing, I still do these things in person [rather than over the Internet]. For example, I participate in various bazaars or trade exhibitions.
The two handicraft makers are examples of small entrepreneurs who consider ICT unessential, as they own small businesses with limited productivity, and worry that applying computer and ICT related applications may increase their operational costs and expenses.
The challenge of empowering SMEs so they can increase productivity, creating better conditions from low-value, price-driven services to higher-value, knowledge based services, exists in many developing countries.
ICT can provide essential tools to acquire, store, process and disseminate information, as well as the ability to generate knowledge. A wider market and more business opportunities as well as access to new technologies and financial sources are also achievable.
But ICT illiteracy is still out there. Low penetration sees small businesses unable to use.
ICT effectively as they are unaware of the potential benefits it can bring to them. Also, many SMEs still lack human technological resources as they focus on day-to-day operations and lack the time to understand the benefits of new technologies. Even when they are aware of the benefits, they will likely need others to assist them.
Some things that can encourage SMEs to take advantage of ICT is affordability, infrastructure and assistance.
To support micro- and small- businesses to use ICT, measures have been set by the government and private and state-owned companies.
Telecommunications provider PT Telkom, for example, earlier this year launched the so-called SME Indonesia Bisa (SIB), a program aimed to equip 1 million SMEs with ICT skills by 2015. The company will lay fiber-optic cables, provide Wi-Fi access and mobile broadband, and extend ICT training skills to small businesses to enable them to market their products.
Data from the Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Ministry shows Indonesia has more than 56 million SMEs and over 200,000 cooperatives.
On its website, Telkom said the SIB program will be introduced across Indonesia, with a target of 500,000 SMEs joining the program in 2014.
Applications offered in the program include Small Office Home Office (SOHO), Business Solutions for the Community (BSC) and Digital Media Solutions.
'The SME Indonesia program is based on Telkom's target to support government programs and SME programs in Indonesia. The aim of this program is to implement modernization and increase SME competition in Indonesia. We're sure that if we utilize ICT, SMEs will become more productive, innovative and increase their contribution to economic growth in Indonesia,' the company said.
ICT is useful for SMEs, not only in terms of connectivity services, but also for more effective business operations such as identifying new opportunities. Assistance is still needed to create more ICT awareness so that micro- and small-businesses can choose among related products, technologies and applications. (I. Christianto)
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