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.