How the Taiwanese government is assisting SMEs in ICT
Taiwan is a good example of a government that is really going out of its way to help Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the field of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
I visited Taiwan two times last year and had the chance to see for myself and study how the Taiwanese government is assisting its SMEs.
“So long as you are willing to make the e-step, a shrimp can be equal to a whale,” are the words of Sun-Quae Lae, director-general of SME Administration with the Taiwanese government.
Under the auspices of the ‘Bridging SME Digital Divide Project’, around 50,000 small and medium enterprises have boarded the e-business bandwagon, creating infinite business opportunities online.
The’Bridging the Digital Divide of the SME Project’ is an important project of the Small and Medium Enterprise Administration, Ministry of Economic Affairs, aiming to help small enterprises with under 20 employees embrace e-commerce.
Thanks to progress in information technology and popularity of the Internet, the threshold for small and medium enterprises to introduce e-commerce has become lower, but to let business owners identify with and personally experience the benefits of e-business poses a major challenge for the promotion of the project.
Fortunately, under the mobilisation of the Information Service Industry Association of the ROC, which is responsible for the execution of the project under the commission of the administration, and 20 municipal computer industry associations, staff of the 12 SME e-Business assisting teams and over 1,000 information service providers have approached renowned scenic spots and remote townships to provide e-commerce painstakingly amongst business owners.
Their efforts have successfully encouraged tens of thousands of small business owners to make the small e-step, allowing them to begin experiencing the power of e-commerce in creating business opportunities.
From its inception in 2005, the project has assisted 16,000 small enterprises to establish Broadband Internet access and 32,000 small enterprises to embrace e-commerce, helping them to create over NT$2 billion in business opportunities and bringing business worth over NT$800 million to information service providers.
Successful and touching episodes abound in the assisting process.
An assisting team, for instance, stepped into the tea business clustered in the mountainous village of Pinglin, helping its tea shops solicit online the return of customer groups, who left following the inauguration of the Snow Mountain Tunnel.
Broadband access has cemented consensus among 10-odd stores in the Aboriginal homeland of Taian village in Miaoli County, whose owners learned computer usage together and successfully landed orders online.
A physically-challenged business owner posted his scuba-diving photos and writings on his experience of the sport on his website, thereby finding many other scuba-diving enthusiasts and customers.
Via the assistance of the project, many people formed into e-clubs, discussing website design together, practicing to use digital cameras for taking and posting commodity photos, and gathering to celebrate the miracles of receiving orders for products or reservations for homestays online from various corners.
E-commerce benefits for small and medium enterprises may not be the most eye-catching and the extent of their e-operations may not be at the highest level.
Their innovative spirit and enthusiasm for personal experience, however, embodies the persevering feature of the 1.22 million Taiwanese SMEs in the face of challenge.
Money is not a problem and technology not a barrier, so long as business owners are willing to take the e-step.
SMEA and the assisting teams would help them achieve business takeoff.
In the foreseeable future, such successful stories will be repeatedly played out in Taiwan, making the industrial digital divide a historical footnote.
“After two years of trial and exploration,” Mr Lai said, “I am glad to take part in the project team, not only having achieved all the goals listed by the project but also grasping the essence for the direction of assisting works, in addition to sophisticated techniques for the execution of the project.
“Therefore, I would like to take the opportunity to express my gratitude for the input and contribution of the Information Service Industry Association of the ROC and the 12 e-operation assisting teams.
“The project has won the ‘e-commerce Ultra-excellence award for the Government Category’ of the e-Asia award, sponsored by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, in 2006, and represented Taiwan in the 2006 APEC e-Asia Awards contest, which underscores the largest confirmation of the efforts brought on by the efforts of the related parties.”