NZ business 'off the pace' with technology

By Ben Chapman-Smith

About 80 per cent of kiwis now make purchases online. Photo / Thinkstock
About 80 per cent of kiwis now make purchases online. Photo / Thinkstock

New Zealand small and medium-sized businesses are slow adopters of new technology, with just 35 per cent even having their own website, according to new research.

MYOB today released a report showing New Zealand businesses, and in turn the national economy, were missing out as a result of the slow take-up of technology.

A survey of just over 1000 SMEs owners found only 18 per cent considered themselves to be early adopters of new technology.

Just 14 per cent were using cloud-based services and only 35 per cent have so far developed a dedicated company website, according to The State of the New Zealand Digital Economy report.

That is despite the fact that 86 per cent of kiwis are now online and 80 per cent use the internet to make purchases, as stated in the report.

New Zealand's economy is ultimately weaker from kiwi businesses' failure to adopt new technology, said New Zealand Institute of Economic Research principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub.

"Part of the reason why we have poor productivity is because we have low technology take-up."

With so many people shopping online, businesses are simply missing out from not having a website, Eaqub said at an event to launch MYOB's findings in Auckland this morning.

"You're not even in the market if you're not adopting technology and don't have a website."

Eaqub said the internet has the same potential to connect New Zealand with the world and transform the economy as refrigerated shipping did in the 1880s.

"We are small, we are far away, but technology can bridge that gap for us."

New Zealand has hundreds of small businesses but very little scale on a global level, he said.

"How we use technology to overcome the tyranny of distance and our small scale, could define New Zealand and our place in the world in the 21st Century.

"By helping to connect us to the rest of the world and opening up new markets and opportunities, the internet can transform the New Zealand economy."

MYOB general manager Julian Smith said New Zealand consumers were some of the world leaders in the way they used the internet to buy, sell and share online.

As a nation, we are ninth in the world for internet usage, in front of the UK (15th), Australia (21st), and USA (23rd).

But as business owners we are "some way off the pace", Smith said.

Just over 60 per cent of businesses surveyed said they did not see the value in having a website.

Three-quarters said the main barrier to setting up a site was simply having too much other work on.

When asked about cloud computing, 31 per cent of the 1000 businesses surveyed said the key thing holding them back was a lack of knowledge.

"They have concerns about how and where their data will be stored and managed and they quite simply have too many other priorities at present."

MYOB's findings suggested something was going wrong in the way online products were being promoted to businesses, Smith said.

"This really highlights the need to adopt a mass-market approach to promoting the benefits of the internet.

"It's not enough just to build the technology and talk about the technical details. We must make it easy for time-poor business owners to understand the benefits and adapt new internet-based tools and services."

A key way to encourage better technology adoption was to focus on the "pain points", Smith said.

Providers need to emphasise how a piece of technology can reduce major challenges businesses face.

"Introducing new technologies represents a cost, both in terms of money, effort
and time, and business owners need to be presented with a clear understanding of the rewards they will receive for this investment."

The MYOB survey was carried out by Colmar Brunton in May this year.

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