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Polish SMEs Behind on E-readiness
Feb 8, 2003

Polish Market Review, a research company, has conducted a survey on the use of computers and the Internet by Polish small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Although the number of firms with Internet access has risen significantly against previous years, this has still not translated into an intensive level of purchasing online.

The research was carried out at the end of August and the beginning of September 2002 in the form of telephone interviews. It used a representative sample of 300 businesses, employing 10-249 people from all sectors of the economy and all areas of the country. The whole population being studied amounts to around 90,000 firms.

The results of the survey indicate that Internet access is more common among Polish SMEs, but lags behind other Estearn European countries. Of those firms with computers, 88.5% of respondents declared that they have Internet access, which is equivalent to around 80% of all the companies polled. A comparison of these data with the results of studies conducted even only two years ago reveals that the number of firms with access to the Internet has grown markedly. The data suggests that the majority of that growth took place in 2000 and 2001 and that few new SMEs gained Internet access in 2002. The survey indicates that this growth trend should continue over the next 12 months since about halve of those firms still without Internet access plan to gain access within a year.

According to the results of the research, at around 50% of the businesses that declared Internet access, over half the workstations are equipped with some type of Internet connection. An average of 63% of the computers in the firms involved in the study had Internet access.

The study revealed a clear connection between Internet access and company size. The larger the number of employees and the greater the company’s revenues, the more likely it is to have Internet access. On the whole, however, even among small firms employing around ten people the percentage of those with access was relatively high, and in medium-sized firms employing more than 50 people the rate was 100%.

The vast majority of small and medium-sized firms surveyed by PMR do not buy any products or services via the Internet. Only 7.7% of participants in the study declared that they make purchases online, which corresponds to around 7,000 businesses in the population as a whole. This means that the number of firms that purchase products or services on the Internet remains at a similar level or even lower than in 2000.

The declarations of participants suggest that next year a significant rise in the number of firms making purchases on the Internet can be expected. In all, as many as 15.3% of all the businesses taking part in the PMR study declared their intention to make purchases online (the answers “definitely” and “probably”), which represents approximately 14,000 firms in the population at large. This would represent 100% growth in the number of those making purchases over the next 12 months.

PMR analysts estimate, however, that actual growth will be under 20%--relatively few respondents answered "definitely"; and it is highly likely that many firms, for various reasons, will not carry through their current intentions. As such the growth prospects for e-commerce, at least on the SME market, are bleak.

The majority of firms that already purchase online are planning to continue to do so over the coming year (81%). This suggests that the majority of those who buy on the net have had relatively positive experiences. Among businesses that have not previously used the Internet to buy goods or services, however, the percentage planning to do so within the year is much lower, at 12%.

The results of the PMR study indicate that in the year ahead, as in previous years, the items most frequently purchased on the net will be office supplies, and computer software and hardware. Around half of respondents planning Internet buys within the next 12 months are planning to buy office supplies or software, and a third hardware. One in four respondents are planning to buy accommodation or travel services and 19% construction or renovation materials.

The results of the research are to be published in two reports. The first, “E-commerce and the Internet in Polish SMEs”, addressing issues related to use of the Internet in the business of respondents’ companies, was published on October 31st 2002. The second, “The IT infrastructure in Polish SMEs”, analysing the level of computerisation among these firms, the standard of the infrastructure they use and their plans to improve was recently published Polish Market Review.

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