Boosting small business uptake of ICT

Published: 10 May 2019

Many small enterprises in New Zealand are not taking advantage of the wide range of information and communication technologies (ICT) available to them, and the ways ICT can improve their business. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has been running a pilot project to encourage small businesses to increase their use of digital technologies.

Research done by MBIE(external link) in 2017 indicates that businesses with greater understanding and high use of ICT were 6 per cent more likely to increase their productivity than firms with low use. Partnering with industry associations and business advisers, MBIE’s Digital Economy team developed a pilot programme to help increase small Kiwi business’s productivity.

“An important aspect of this work has been approaching it from a “behaviour change” perspective. How can we best help and encourage businesses to adapt?” Says Janelle Whittleston, Acting Manager, Digital Economy, MBIE.

“The first phase of the pilot found that small businesses tend to adopt one of four personas, which reflects a business’s mind-set, level of engagement and investment in digital technology, among other factors.”

The pilot also identified that small businesses trust certain people to help them make decisions on their digital development. This includes their industry association, their business adviser or their accountant.

 “We found that once we understood a business’s persona, priorities and attitudes, then it is easier for trusted intermediaries and advisors to tailor recommendations for that business.

 “We have developed a toolkit which can be used by these ‘trusted intermediaries’ to run effective events to increase a small business’ use of ICT, and ‘nudge’ greater digital uptake. The toolkit contains an event guide, case studies from successful and digitally-savvy small businesses, descriptions of the four digital personas, a map of the steps a small business goes through in their digital development, and other practical checklists and templates.

“We are continuing to work with tourism, construction and arable farming sector partners to progress sector-specific digital opportunities identified in the pilot. This includes the demonstration arable farm(external link), where MBIE are partnering with the Internet of Things (IoT) Alliance, the Foundation for Arable Research and others to demonstrate the impact of using digital tools (such as water and nutrient sensors and data analytics) on arable farming operations,” says Janelle Whittleston.