Inhibitors to Internet Use by Sub-Saharan African SMEs

Inhibitors to Internet Use by Sub-Saharan African SMEs

Princely Ifinedo (Shannon School of Business, Cape Breton University, Canada)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch673
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Introduction

The Internet is a global network of interconnected computers. Increasingly, the Internet is being used to enhance business operations by both small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large organizations around the world (Bunker and MacGregor, 2002; Turban et al., 2010; Ifinedo, 2012). The Internet when used to facilitate e-commerce and e-business offers several benefits for the adopting organizations and an even nations (Wade et al., 2004; Turban et al., 2010; Weisberg et al., 2011; Awa et al. 2011; Ofose, 2013; Azeez, 2013; Aminu; 2013). Such benefits include the following: 1) reducing distance barrier, 2) the development of new products and services, 3) opening direct links between customer and suppliers, 4) enhancing communication efficiency. In brief, the Internet permits the emergence of new business models including business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C).

Relevant literature has revealed that the diffusion of the Internet in Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) is the lowest in the world (ITU, 2013). Accordingly, the use of such technologies by both large and SMEs on the African continent is marginal, to say the least (African e-Index, 2006; Ongori, 2009; Ifinedo, 2006; EIU, 2012). A prior report showed that the whole of Africa has only 1% of the total international Internet bandwidth (UNCTAD, 2005). The statistic has shown some improvement. According to Internetworldstats (2013), Africa’s Internet usage is about 7% of the world’s data. McKinsey Global Institute (2013) 16% of the continent’s one billion people are online. It is to be expected that the population and businesses in SSA because of such poor connectivity and usage data will be unable to fully reap the benefits of such technology (Ifinedo, 2005; Awa et al., 2011; Adekunle & Tella, 2008; Aminu, 2013; Okechi & Kepeghom, 2013; Aminu, 2013). Against such unfavorable situations, it would seem reasonable for research efforts to uncover why such unfavorable conditions prevail in the region. Sadly, very few studies exist that have investigated such issues. Little is known about the perceptions of the Internet use or the factors inhibiting its spread among SMEs in SSA. More empirical data from the region may be beneficial to policy makers and academic researchers.

To fill this gap in the relevant literature, this article aims at adding to knowledge by presenting a summary of the findings of a preliminary study designed to investigate the perceptions of the Internet use as well as barriers confronting SMEs in SSA with regard to adopting the Internet in their operations. This study used SMEs in Nigeria, a SSA country. The country was chosen for illustration proposes as it is the most populous country in Africa and has favorable indicators for the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) and related technologies compared to other SSA countries (Ifinedo, 2005). It is worth noting that Ojukwu (2006), Olatokun and Bankole (2011) and Apulu and Ige (2011) have discussed use of ICT by Nigerian SMEs and other researchers (de Klerk & Kroon, 2005; Saffu et al., 2007; Ongori, 2009; Olatokun & Kebonye, 2010; Awa et al., 2011; Aminu, 2013; Oreku et al., 2013) had also offered insights from other parts of SSA. It is hoped that this present study will complement these previous research that focused on SMEs’ use of emerging technologies such as the Internet in a developing part of the world.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs): The businesses characterized by informal planning, strong owner’s influence, lack of specialists, small management teams, heavy reliance on a few customers, limited knowledge, and often employ less than 250 workers.

E-Business: The sharing of business information, collaborating with business partners as well as conducting business transactions by means of the telecommunication networks.

Internet: A global network of computers connecting millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks across the world.

Business-2-Business (B2B): The commercial activities between firms online.

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA): The region of Africa excluding the northern part of the continent and the Republic of South Africa.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT): The technological products such as telephones, computers, the Internet, and so forth which are used to convert, store, process, transmit, and retrieve information.

Business-2-Customer (B2C): The commercial activities between firms and customers online.

Web (WWW): A system of interlinked documents containing texts, images, videos, and other multimedia that can be accessed via the Internet.

E-Commerce: The buying and selling of goods and services online.

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