A Melbourne company has launched a government-funded education program addressing the perceived reluctance amongst small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to embrace e-commerce strategies. As a result, accredited resellers catering to all sorts of SMEs will soon be able to include tools and services aimed at increasing awareness of the inherent opportunities in e-commerce.
After recommendations were made to the Victorian Government that assistance was required to get SMEs savvy on e-commerce, Australian electronic Business Network (AeBN) was formed to develop independent awareness workshops, courseware and a Web site to demystify it all.
According to Alan Chapple, AeBN's general manager, business networks, there are around one million SMEs in Australia with the latest figures showing they represent 96 per cent of all Australia's companies and employ 61 per cent of the national workforce.
"We will be encouraging resellers to apply for accreditation with AeBN to become e-commerce consultants," said Chapple. "They would be conducting workshops for SMEs in their own locality and aimed at their own client base or target markets.
It will be an opportunity for them to build additional revenue streams around e-commerce products and services."
Victorian research conducted into the SME attitude to e-commerce revealed a need for non-vendor specific, low-cost awareness campaigns and workshops - which is what AeBN will be developing and accrediting. It showed SMEs were reluctant to embrace the technology, because they didn't understand it and didn't know whether to get unbiased opinions on its worth.
To address this, funding has been made available from the Federal Department of Industry, Science and Technology to help Melboune-based AeBN develop national programs which address these fears. It is expected that further funding from state and territory governments will allow offices to be set up around the country.
"This is about building awareness and getting SMEs started in e-commerce," Chapple said. `We are asking people from the IT reselling channel to register their capabilities through our Web site (www.aebn.org.au) if they are interested in these sorts of consulting services.
"We are not telling SMEs what to do or which solution will suit them best. We are showing them how e-commerce can be used to improve productivity, access new markets and increase competitiveness for the benefit of their businesses," he said.
Around $6 million is being raised to kick-start the program. In addition to the estimated $3 million being injected by state, territory and federal governments, further funds are being sought from related software and hardware suppliers as well as corporates with large supply chains involving SMEs.