SINGAPORE (05/03/2000) - Two-thirds of Singapore companies surveyed acknowledge that electronic commerce is essential for their organizations. Despite the positive affirmation, only 15.4 percent of the respondents are currently deploying e-commerce, research has shown.
The survey of 188 companies across the Internet was commissioned by the Singapore Information Technology Federation (SITF). The aim was to assess the extent of usage and impact of e-commerce here, said officials, adding that findings would serve to enable SITF, as well as the relevant government agencies, to implement plans and structure programs to promote e-commerce here.
On the positive side, the survey showed that 42.6 percent of the respondents from the transportation, communication, financial, and commerce sectors intend to use e-commerce within the next 12 months, while 22.9 percent say they are unsure, and 19.1 percent say that they will not.
SITF officials revealed that multinationals and large organizations which had grossed sales turnover of at least S$100 million (US$58.2 million) in 1998, constituted the largest group of e-commerce users (30 percent). Companies with sales between S$1 million and S$10 million accounted for the smallest group of e-commerce users.
For the top users category, the Public and Commerce institutions ranked high at 38.9 percent and 25 percent respectively. Construction companies, on the other hand, appeared to be least interested in using e-commerce, where a majority of respondents (60 percent) from that sector indicated that they have no intention to use e-commerce at all. Twenty percent intend to use it in the next months, and the remaining 20 percent expressed no opinion.
The survey also showed that three out of five (59.7 percent) respondents regarded e-commerce as an enabler and revenue-generating mechanism, rather than a cost-consuming tool. The Public institutions were the only group which disagreed.
Meanwhile, 73.9 percent of the respondents agreed that Singapore will become a major e-commerce hub in 2003. Many felt that the government could do more to aid e-commerce efforts by providing financial assistance, training and seminars, and infrastructure and skill development.
With the Internet as the key driver in the new economy, companies that choose not to adopt e-commerce may invariably face survival issues, said Wilson Tan, SITF's chairman. In particular, 95 percent of the overall 90,000 small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs), are still in the brick and mortar business, Tan noted.
Bringing these companies to an understanding and appreciation of e-commerce, and getting them to go online are significant challenges, he said. What seems to be holding these small companies, or any traditional businesses, from getting online lies in not knowing where to begin, he explained.
"The problem is there has been much hype on the Internet and e-commerce, but the body of knowledge still rests with the few," he said. Not knowing how to take the first step and not wanting to be seen as unfamiliar with the technology has slowed and delayed the adoption rate of e-commerce, Tan pointed out. Other reasons cited in the survey include the lack of an e-commerce budget, technical infrastructure, in-house skills and readiness of suppliers and buyers.
The outlook remains promising, however, given the various government and industry initiatives underway.
"The promulgation and promotion of e-commerce (initiatives) have helped to remove some of the technical jargon and mystique (surrounding the Internet)," Tan said. "Therefore, we should see a faster and wider adoption of e-commerce in the coming year."