Innovative use of ICT is
being used to help businesses grow and to help new business start-ups.
With the development of
new regional development bodies in the UK it seems, in fact, that
there is no region in the country that does not aspire to become a
world leader in the new economy. In practice, however, practice lags
far behind aspiration in most areas.
The key themes in using
ICT for developing businesses are:
getting to grips with ICT can present many problems. Not all big
organisations do it particularly well, but at least in principle they
have the resources to do so. For smaller businesses, the investment
and the time necessary may seem too great, and in-house skills may be
This is an area where
economic development partners can make a big difference. One such
example is the "Wired Working" project in S&E Cheshire.
This is an area with a strong manufacturing base, but badly hit by the
decline of the defence industries. The local Training & Enterprise
Council ran a project to spread awareness of how ICT can be used to
improve business competitiveness. outreach activities and publications
targeted at the intelligent and very busy manager were the order of
Skills development and
ICT can be both the
subject of new learning and also the delivery mechanism.
In growing businesses
getting to grips with any IT may be the necessary first step. It may
be that a company has a PC or two, but use only a fraction of their
potential. Taking the PC from a being in effect a glorified (and
expensive!) typewriter to being a tool for streamlining processes such
as accounts and marketing can be the first step in making a company
more competitive, and enabling the workforce to acquire new skills.
Networking, remote working, getting to grips with the Internet and
e-business may follow in due course.
A key barrier may be in
local companies thinking that it is relevant only to high-tech
businesses. But sharing best practice about traditional industries
using ICT can overcome this.
Local businesses and
inward investment opportunities can be marketed via the Internet and
other online networks.
At relatively low cost,
compared to other forms of marketing, regeneration areas can market
with global reach
Local or national?
There are numerous
government supported websites which aim to boost economic development
and the SME sector in particular.
Good sites like E-Commerce
Scotland or (to a lesser extent) UK
Online for Business provide many useful resources and links for
activities relevant to growing businesses in regeneration areas. The University
for Industry will (in due course) provide online learning opportunities
It is important not simply
to duplicate national activities, but to seek to add value at the
local level. ICT can be used to
promote access to
local business support services
public/private partnerships for economic development
services (e.g. joint marketing opportunities, tendering
information, export support etc)
Just as specialised ICT
facilities are popping up around the country to promote public access
to ICT, specialised facilities catering to the business community can
be developed as part of regeneration projects.
Those that currently exist
often pay their way by offering training - e.g in word-processing,
databases, Internet awareness etc. Some of the bolder ones offer a
"showcase" for new technologies. This is an expensive route
to take when technologies change so fast.
But there is clear merit
in having a venue where the business community can seek specialised
advice and get their hands on new or unfamiliar technology.
The comment we have heard
most about such facilities is that it is much easier to get funding
for initial capital spending than it is for continued revenue support.
Projects have to continually reinvent themselves to qualify for new
| Employment | Business
| Learning | Community-building