1.1. BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Businesses are looking to new technologies to meet their unique business requirements and
position themselves to take advantage of global changes in business activities. Businesses both
large and small need information to succeed in today's rapid changing environment, they need to
be able to process data and use information effectively when conducting their day-to-day operations. The growth of the Internet has opened up a vast arena, providing more opportunities for businesses, particularly small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to sell their products and services to a global audience than they would have been able to afford to reach using the traditional methods.
A search of literature reveals that many changes in organization today have been technology
driven Clarke (2001) notes that information technology (IT) is really changing the whole nature
of business transaction between consumers and suppliers of goods and services. Pigneur (1996)
points out that companies especially SMEs are confronted with a number of changes that require
innovative answers. These challenges include the emergence of a competitive global economy;
the trend towards an information based economy, and the shift from mass production to a customer-driven economy. He adds that to compete in today's global information-based and
customer-driven economy, SMEs must be efficient, innovative and competitive: able to respond
just in time, focus on quality, and implement mass-customization. He suggests that in order to do
this today, they must also be able to leverage the new information and communication= technologies (ICTs) to fit better in their environment, establish more co-operative inter-organizational relationships and compete on the international markets (Pigneur, 2006).
There have been many studies and reports published in UK and overseas in the last few years on
the Internet usage in business in general. This study is not another examination of the general
usage of Internet in business, rather it builds and summarizes the extensive and valuable research
already completed in these areas and extracts the essential themes and messages being expressed
by most SMEs. The study aims to examine the perceived opportunities and benefits that Internet usage can offer to SMEs.