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Global Development Institute

Information, ICTs and Small Enterprise: Findings from Botswana

Richard Duncombe & Richard Heeks

Abstract

The potential contribution of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to small enterprise development can only be assessed by first understanding current information practices and needs in such enterprises.  This paper reports findings from a questionnaire and interview survey of formal sector enterprises in Botswana based on this approach.

The survey first mapped current enterprise information systems, finding there was a strong reliance on informal systems.  It also mapped current information needs.  Such needs must be kept in perspective since they may be less important than (though intertwined with) needs for other resources such as finance, skills and new markets.  Where information systems are improved, changes to informal, non-electronic systems must be considered alongside changes to formal, ICT-based systems.

Interventions, whether by entrepreneurs or support agencies, must also be differentiated.  The paper therefore concludes by offering an information-related categorisation of enterprise types with different information systems and different intervention requirements.

 

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Educator's guide

Synopsis questions

  1. What is a systemic view of ICTs? What insights can it offer? [part A]
  2. What kind of information systems do small enterprises in Botswana use? [part B]
  3. What kind of information do small enterprises in Botswana need? [part B]
  4. What ICT-related categories of enterprise exist in Botswana? What conclusions and recommendations are reached about them? [part D]

Development questions

 

  1. As noted, some studies take a 'view that technology is the solution to development problems'. What is this paper's view about technology?
  2. Do you really need to understand so much about information in order to understand ICTs and their role?
  3. How is the status of small enterprises and of ICTs different in Botswana compared to your own country?
  4. Which is more important to a small enterprise: formal or informal information systems?
  5. Are the paper's conclusions valid and generalisable given its choice of country, enterprise groups, and research method?
  6. Based on this paper's findings, what recommendations would you make to: a) a small enterprise support agency operating in Botswana; b) the Botswana government?