IT training for small businesses

Very small Greek businesses (employing up to five people) lag significantly behind those in other EU member states in their use of computers and the Internet, but those with 11 employees and more show a satisfactory degree of convergence, a Development Ministry-sponsored study shows. The results of the study were presented during the first working meeting in Athens yesterday of regional operatives of a program to provide training facilities to small and medium-size businesses (SMEs) in the use of new technologies. The initiative is part of the EU-subsidized «Go Networked» (Diktyotheite) program run by the ministry and involves the provision of guidance and support by 16 regional consortiums comprised of universities and professional chambers. The size of the firm emerges as an important factor in the use of the new technologies; personal businesses (one-man), which represent 39 percent of the total number of enterprises in Greece, use computers and the Internet at ratios of one in four and one in 10 respectively, but in the 11+ category, which accounts for just 3 percent of the total number, these ratios rise to nine in 10 and six in 10. The study, prepared on behalf of the ministry’s National Research and Technology Council, involved 1,800 enterprises throughout the country numbering from one to 250 staff and was conducted on the basis of personal interviews and questionnaires. According to a 1995 census, the total number of SMEs in Greece was 509,837. According to the overall findings, only one in three SMEs use a computer and fascimile machine, one in 10 has an internal database, one in six makes use of the Internet, one in eight uses e-mail and only one in 12 has a company mobile phone. In the next 12 months, one in 13 SMEs plans to buy a computer and one in 16 to acquire a Web connection. This would mean a 22 percent increase in the use of computers to an overall 42 percent, and a 41 percent increase in the use of the Internet to 22 percent overall. At least one in three Greek SMEs has problems of acquaintance and adaptation to the new technologies and has a strong need of support for education and training. However, a substantial number replied that they faced no problems and had no need of support (45 and 29 percent respectively), while only 14 percent of the SMEs questioned said they knew of the Go Networked program. These rates are considered likely to reflect a general lack of acquaintance with use of the new technologies. General Secretary for Industry Yiannis Kalogirou told the meeting that the program, linked with the European initiative «Go Digital,» aimed to help SMEs improve their productivity and expand their activities. He said that the provision of guidance and support to very small businesses was at the heart of the program, which is already addressing 15,000 small businesses,. and has been budgeted at around 25 million euros.

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