Australian SMEs go slow on digital comms tech uptake: ACMA

Many Australian small and medium enterprises are deliberately choosing to be late adopters of digital communications technology, despite being acutely aware of its benefits, according to a new study by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

New research by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has revealed that many Australian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are deliberately choosing to be slow on the uptake of digital telecommunications technology, despite being aware of its importance.

The research for ACMA's SMEs and Digital Communications Technologies study, published today, was carried out by GfK Australia, in a bid to understand the key drivers and barriers to digital communications technology take-up among SMEs.

The research found that many Australian SMEs perceive digital communication technology as a tool that assists in running their businesses, but not as a necessity in and of itself.

Respondent SMEs highlighted the importance of needing a strong case for the adoption of digital communications technologies in the immediate future to offset potential barriers to use.

It also found that SMEs' engagement with more mature digital communications technology solutions, such as websites and financial management software, has been broader than with newer innovative technologies such as cloud-based storage applications.

ACMA said that there was a strong sense from SMEs of a lack of urgency to make a change in relation to their digital communications technology infrastructure — with an overriding view that if things are going well, they do not want to waste money or resources on technology that they can not be sure will work.

As a result, rather than simply delaying adoption or engagement due to a lack of knowledge and information, SMEs are sometimes deliberately choosing to be late adopters.

Respondent SMEs indicated that they like to make sure that a solution's success factors are proven. As SMEs wait longer to update their infrastructure, the cost to adopt decreases — an additional incentive for the slow uptake.

ACMA said that industry leaders consulted during this study took a contrasting view, expressing concern that without a greater focus on adopting digital communications technology, SMEs won't have the tools to sustain their businesses into the future.

The study showed that there is low awareness amongst SMEs — especially the smaller-scale businesses — about regulations related to digital communications technology, with which they need to comply.

While medium to larger-sized businesses were more likely to have a legal team responsible for monitoring and ensuring that the business is compliant with regulations, few SMEs appeared to actively seek out or research regulations relating to digital communications technology.

However, ACMA also said the research showed that the more knowledgeable and confident SMEs become about digital communications technology solutions, the easier the path to adoption becomes.

There were four factors identified as being driving influences for SMEs to take on new technology, including the age of a business, with a younger business generally being more willing to change to accommodate customer demand, and the life stage of directors and senior management.

Additionally, the type of industry in which an SME was in played a role, with those selling services less inclined to adopt digital communications technology, as did business model/business size, with smaller businesses of six staff members or fewer being less inclined to adopt digital communications technology.

The new research comes as ACMA reveals that it has awarded Melbourne's Zoak Solutions the contract to provide allocation and administrative services for Australia's telephone numbers.

ZOAK Solutions develops transaction-based internet systems and is part of the Bombora Technologies Group, known for its work as the registry operator for all .au domain names on behalf of the .au Domain Name Administration.

The initial seven-year contract will see ZOAK Solutions build a new numbering allocation system and provide all numbering allocation and administrative services from August 2015.