NOACC study focuses on Internet business

Business owners in Northwestern Ontario are itching to get into the fast lane on the information highway—but aren’t sure if their current vehicle has the necessary speed to succeed.
That’s the gist of a new study conducted by the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce of 5,000 companies in the region to determine both their present level of involvement in Internet business as well as their future aspirations in the e-commerce field.
FedNor funded the study, with the research carried out by Confederation College.
NOACC president Tannis Drysdale of Fort Frances said the results of the survey are important because they illustrate not only the planned cyberspace destination for area businesses, but the hurdles that will have to be overcome to get there.
“There are some obstacles,” admitted Drysdale. “But clearly, we’re moving forward.”
Of those surveyed, 80 percent said they used the Internet for some purpose while 50 percent confirmed their business had its own Web site.
But 60 percent of the businesses approached saw the quality of the local Internet service as a hindrance to them becoming more part of the e-commerce universe, while 70 percent felt local computer and technical support was an obstacle.
Technical guidance was the biggest stumbling block for businesses, though, as 80 percent were concerned about their ability to find qualified and credible e-commerce advice.
Those businesses not currently using the Internet pointed to insufficient knowledge, access, and expense as the key reasons for their lack of participation.
Drysdale said it will be significant to compare how this region stacks up against the rest of the province.
“It will help us know what direction business want to head in, and we also need it so when the survey is done again five years from now, there will be a benchmark to refer to,” she explained.
“This is a huge opportunity in Northwestern Ontario to not only strengthen [the current businesses] but to bring new businesses in,” she stressed.