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Project(2003~2004)
APEC Project Overview
Amidst advancing globalization and information technology development, economies are finding themselves on either side of the digital divide. Developing economies are often on the less advanced side of the divide and this fact poses a formidable obstacle for the small and medium enterprises in these countries in terms of overcoming the technology gap. APEC economies share this concern and have confirmed their determination to exert a common effort to spread ICT to SMEs for their greater development.
 
To foster and to assume leadership in this joint endeavor, Korea¡¯s Small and Medium Business Administration(SMBA) proposed a special project titled¡ºEnabling e-Microenterprise Environment¡»in February 2003, which was endorsed by APEC SME Ministers in August 2003 at Chiang Mai. The two-year project will be carried out by Korea Information Management Institute for Small and Medium Enterprises (KIMI) under supervision by the SMBA.

 

 

Background
Discussion within APEC on digitizing operations and enhancing SMEs' access to ICT
Advance in information and communications technology has been truly remarkable, and so taking advantage of the potentials entailed in the technological development has become a key issue across APEC. In 1990, the Telecommunications and Information Working Group (TEL) was formed out of concern for successfully adapting to changes brought on by ICT development. Since its inception TEL has carried out various projects with active and voluntary participation of industries. On 21 October 2001, APEC Leaders issued the e-APEC Strategy, which the member economies are keen to reflect in their ICT policies. The Strategy is primarily concerned with narrowing the digital divide, a goal shared among APEC economies. They recognize the need to expand ICT access to underprivileged groups, such as women, the disabled and people in rural areas.
Another important issue in APEC is promoting the development of SMEs. APEC recognizes that SMEs significantly contribute to creating jobs and fostering economic development in the region. At the heart of collaborative efforts to promote SME development is the Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group (SMEWG). The SMEWG shared the view that advance in ICT has for some economies become more of an obstacle to overcome than the opportunity it could be. When Korea proposed to launch a project to develop an e-APEC Strategy with special focus on the SMEs and Microenterprises especially, the suggestion was, not surprisingly, met with enthusiasm.
¡ºEnabling e-SME Environment¡»is founded on concerted efforts and discussions that have taken place on ICT and SME development. This timely project will serve as a pathfinder for future APEC projects that aim to maximize the benefits of the New Economy by marrying ICT and SME in a harmonious way.
Korean experience of promoting digitization in SMEs
The Korean government foresaw from early on that ICT will serve as a powerful catalyst to boost the growth of Korean economy, and made strategic efforts to make the most of the potential. However, a gap between SMEs and the larger enterprises became noticeable when it came to integrating ICT into business operations. The so-called informatization was much harder to achieve in SMEs and the benefits tended to be smaller for them than for large businesses. To minimize this discrepancy, the Korean government has endeavored to ensure broader access to ICT for the less privileged sectors, including SMEs, and has tried to attract them to join in the informatization effort.
The government effort to integrate ICT into enterprises, especially the SMEs, can be divided into basically three stages.
Phase Strategies for Digitization of Industries
Phase 1:
Creating Infrastructure for
Digitization of Industries
(1996~2000)
- Building the information infrastructure
- Promoting a digital culture among SMEs
Phase 2:
Promoting e-Commerce
(2000)
- Building a better legal framework for promoting SME digitization
- Nurturing IT industry and workforce
- Building the foundation for e-commerce
- Promoting e-commerce in the public and industrial sectors
Phase 3:
Industry Digitization
(2001~2005)
- Building industry-specific networks
- Building information networks headed by leading digital SMEs
- Fostering an environment where SMEs can adopt ICT
 on their own
Thanks to the policy efforts, Korean SMEs were able to adopt ICT into their business operation. Many good practices have been uncovered, which are now being disseminated nation-wide to encourage similar initiatives. ¡ºEnabling e-SME Environment¡» will provide an opportunity for APEC economies to take a look at how Korea was able to achieve the level of industry digitization that it boasts today.
An opportunity to contribute Korean's strengths to narrowing digital divide in the APEC region
Korea has been one of the most visible and active economies in APEC, taking the initiative in many Working Group activities. Korea has carried out a number of projects with support from APEC, and in 2005 will make another important contribution as the host economy and APEC Chair. Korea¡¯s past involvement in APEC is proof of its commitment to the spirit and vision shared by member economies. When successfully carried out,¡ºEnabling e-SME Environment¡»will add meaning to these endeavors.
Korea is internationally known for the innovation and entrepreneurship of its ICT industry, and it seeks to share its advantages with other economies. By successfully carrying out the ¡ºEnabling e-SME Environment¡» project, Korea can help foster the expansion of information technology in the region. In addition, the tasks and issues identified in the course of the two-year project may be included in the agenda for SME Ministerial Meetings in 2005 to encourage more concerted international effort. KIMI is at the forefront of Korea¡¯s efforts to narrowing the digital divide among APEC economies.

 

 

Objectives
1.
To complete the¡ºAPEC SME Informatization Survey¡» and disseminate it to share reasonable standards and practical policies on digitization in member economies, which will ultimately contribute to international cooperation
2. To host a workshop on e-Biz and thereby promote digitization in developing economies and foster mutual cooperation between the developed and the developing economies
3. To host an international conference where member economies can discuss the role of government organizations in aiding integration of ICT into SME operation and the success factors behind good practices identified by the ¡ºAPEC SME Informatization Survey¡»
4. To develop meaningful agenda for APEC SME Ministerial Meetings in 2005 to come up with viable ways of international cooperation to bridge the digital divide.

 

 

Sub-projects
¡ºEnabling e-Microenterprise Environment¡» is composed of three sub-projects. The first phase will result in a research paper titled ¡ºAPEC SME Informatization Survey¡». The discussion themes and issues for the international conference scheduled for July 2004 will be decided based on the survey. The outcomes of the first two sub-projects will affect the third and final phase of the project, the e-Biz workshop.

 

 

Evaluation Plan
A survey will be conducted to evaluate the outcomes of¡ºEnabling e-Microenterprise Environment¡». It will be a quantitative survey on which respondents will grade each item on a scale of five. A question, for example, may ask to what degree the respondent¡¯s understanding of digitization in SMEs has been enhanced. At the same time, informatization of SMEs will be analyzed on the four criteria: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. When interpreting survey results, similar surveys from the OECD or the EU will be used as reference or benchmarks.
To evaluate the outcomes of the APEC e-Biz workshop, a survey will be carried out before and after the program. Before beginning the training program, participants will be asked to answer questions on their prior knowledge and skills (e.g. expert knowledge of ICT issues, networking skills and leadership skills). Upon completing the program, another survey will be conducted to determine to what degree their skills have improved as a result of the workshop.

The two major assessment criteria are whether or not the relevant APEC fora endorse the project outcomes and whether or not other member economies benchmark this project. In the case of the workshop, a follow-up survey may be conducted a year after the program to analyze what progress was made. If intermediaries successfully foster e-communities linking SMEs and create new business opportunities and cooperative initiatives, the project will be considered a success.