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The Readiness Survey for the northern part of Cyprus

Introduction to and purpose of the Survey

An informal survey carried out by UNDP-PFF in the Turkish Cypriot business community provided a clear indication that the level of e-readiness, or readiness to use Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), is very low in the northern part of Cyprus. The survey was meant to pinpoint the largest obstacles to development.

The survey was carried out in April, 2005 using telephone surveys. Although the main focus was to find out more about the situation for micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises, we also looked at citizens (as a potential market for e-commerce) and ‘public’ offices (as an important initiator of change).

We put together questionnaires for the general public, MSMEs, and ‘public’ offices, as well as a list of open questions:

Target

Kind of question

How many?

Method

The general public

Multiple choice

500 interviews

Telephone interviews

MSMEs

Multiple choice and open answer

100 interviews

Telephone and face-to-face interviews

‘Public’ offices

Open answer

60 interviews

Face-to-face interviews

Open questions on infrastructure and demography

Data

20-40

Statistical offices, universities etc.

In addition, we benchmarked the most important data against the Greek Cypriot community, the EU average, other EU accession countries, and Denmark.
What did we find out?

For a complete report and extracts from the data, our report will be released soon to be downloaded from this site.

In our citizen survey, we found the following:

  • %51 of Turkish Cypriots have a computer while %39 have internet access
  • The major reason for not having access is not feeling that there is a need to do so
  • While 24% of the total population knows what e-commerce is, only 5% have used it. The main reason was pricing, as prices of imported products tend to be lower in Turkey and abroad.

In our MSME survey, we found the following:

  • %65 of surveyed companies have computers, and% 43 have an internet connection.
  • %23 have a web site, but only one single company had e-commerce facilities.
  • The use of standardised software, such as logistics and HR solutions, is very low. Accounting software is wide spread, but no company has a large degree of system integration or process automation.

Finally, in our survey of ‘public’ offices, we found the following:

  • Heads of ‘public’ offices see large possibilities in e-commerce, but also significant obstacles (the most important being citizen authentication)
  • 38% pf ‘public’ offices have a web site
  • Short term plans include basic application taking and invoice payment online
  • Long term plans include automating the public registry, upgrading tourist information, and connecting different offices.

The benchmark study yielded the following:

  • The citizen internet usage rate is, despite relatively high prices and slow connection speeds, close to the EU 25 average.
  • Usage among companies, however, is considerably lower than in Europe and among Greek Cypriots.
  • Company web sites are very simple and not integrated with other systems.
What conclusion we can draw?

The citizens perspective

The Internet is used much more by citizens than by companies; the same applies to the rate of computer ownership and usage. Internet penetration by Citizens is close the EU average. We have identified three major areas where action is called for: connectivity, awareness, and expanding the types of internet usage.

Connectivity : The lack of fast, inexpensive, and reliable Internet access using high speed technologies has a negative effect on usage volume and type of usage. The percentage of people leaving in rural areas is larger than the average of European countries, making it more difficult to implement new ICT infrastructure.

Awareness : If we use the alleged plans for connecting to the Internet as an indicator, we expect ed to see a slow growth of Internet penetration. Similarly, citizens saw little use in e - commerce. Both of these problems came down to the fact that many people did not see a need or a use for the Internet.

Types of Internet usage : We also found that, while usages rites were relatively high, the Internet was seldom used productively, let alone for transaction purposes. Lower prices compared to Turkey was one of the main reasons for shopping online; had this not been the case, e-commerce usage rates might have been even lower. Instead, the Internet was largely used for communication and entertainment.

A policy designed to address these problems have hence promoted the development of high speed connectivity at low rates, promote awareness raising measures in the general public, and further develop local e-commerce facilities that are solid, secure, and most important useful to the citizens.

The business perspective

Raising the levels of ICT usage, both passively and actively, by Micro-, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in the northern part of Cyprus should be a priority of any ICT policy for the area. The levels are low by any measure. The main problematic areas that we have identified from the research are awareness, financial constraints, and lack of expertise.

Awareness : Usage and perception of usage of the Internet was quite low without realizing the benefit that the Internet and ICT can generally provide to the growth of the community. Potentially even more serious, software such as logistics, stock control and point of sale had a very low usage, which could effect the management of stock, profitability and the cost-effectiveness of a business. Lack of usage of such applications could incur serious productivity implementation when introducing mechanism such sales taxes and other per transactions related processing.

Financial constraints : Internet access rates were high, high speed alternatives sometimes prohibitively so. Further, most of the companies were micro size, limiting the capacity towards ICT investment. A lack of good financing alternatives due to high interest rates for the Turkish lira, being relatively high to cover country risk, was another reason. There was also a general tendency to reject widely available ready-made software packages against bespoke developed applications; although there were many low cost alternatives, they were seldom considered, as company managers did not have the expertise and motivation to do a market research.

Lack of technical expertise : As the Turkish Cypriot community is small, IT practitioners had little possibility to specialize and develop expertise in sub areas. In fact, many of them did everything from software writing to network administration, resulting in a low competitiveness and systems with limited functionality. There was also a general tendency to delegate important decisions about IT systems to technical staff. As a consequence, the finished products often failed to meet the implicit business requirements of the customer and were often reduced to a minor role within the company.

Clearly, to address these challenges, we should focus on awareness raising measures, especially ones geared to creating an understanding of the business side. Grant and loan programs as well as the development of local language ASP services should address the financial hurdles that many companies face. Technical training courses should help develop a deeper level of capacity.

The ‘public’ office perspective

In general, we found the level of awareness among office managers to be high. They knew about Internet and electronic procedures, and provided a satisfactory list of processes that could be carried out online. Managers were optimistic about the possibilities for speeding up and automating internal processes, and interacting with the citizens, providing much improved service at a much lower cost.

Unfortunately, though, very little apart from providing general information online has been done. Short terms plans involved accepting on-line applications and accepting payment; but any deeper interaction would have been impossible until the departments agree on a common standard to uniquely and securely identify citizens. For that to happen, we need both awareness in all societal strata as well as funding and technical expertise. All of these need to be developed; but this task is not impossible.Based on widely available experience in other parts of the world and with a relatively low investment, the northern part of Cyprus faces an important opportunity to develop e-government functionality. That would not only facilitate administrative procedures for citizens and companies, but, perhaps even more importantly, show them the way forward.

Click here to view the Survey Report in English

Click here to view the Survey Report in Turkish

Last Updated ( Thursday, 26 July 2012 )
 

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