Small businesses lagging behind with technology

File: Colin Timmis of Xero says small business owners spend most of the time trying to run their businesses, collect money from their debtors, pay their suppliers and support their families. Photo: Pixabay / stevebp

JOHANNESBURG – New research reveals that South African small businesses are at risk of being left behind if they don’t adopt new technologies.

The latest survey by an accounting firm, Xero, shows a large portion of companies questioned still use old technology. Funding remains a core challenge for small businesses in South Africa, combined with old technology practices.

Colin Timmis of Xero says companies need to research and adopt new technologies. He says a lot of small businesses lack time for this.

“They’re really busy trying to run their businesses, collect money from their debtors, pay their suppliers, support family. Support communities," Timmis said.

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From the 400 small business owners questioned, over 83 percent say they still use Excel spreadsheets for their accounting and administrative needs, with 73 percent saying they still print invoices. While the businesses say they’re open to new technologies, they cite poor or unreliable internet connectivity as a hindrance.

Timmis says better uptake and download speed is required.

“We need the ability for business owners and people who are thinking about starting a business to not be frustrated by the thoughts of trying to access the internet.”

Small to medium enterprises comprise 91 percent of formalised business and contribute about 34 percent to the GDP. But this lack of technology means they can't compete with better-resourced multi-nationals.

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Timmis has since called for government’s intervention on the issue. 

“We have the ministry of small businesses, they’ve been giving funding. A lot of that funding should not just be given to the small businesses to use and spend. That funding should be used to better equip those businesses by giving them tools and products like internet connectivity so they can educate themselves and employ those new technologies.”

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