Opportunities presented by information and communication technologies for women led SMMEs in KwaZulu-Natal.
In South Africa, and especially in KwaZulu-Natal, small, medium, and microenterprises (SMMEs) contribute significantly to the economy. However, these businesses operate in a highly competitive environment and have to contend with many larger enterprises. Within the SMME sector in South Africa many women are operating their small businesses, thus contributing to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). These women, however, are subjected to many challenges, and face many barriers when operating their small businesses. Access to and the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for business development and growth cannot be overemphasised. It is for this reason that this study aims to determine the opportunities ICTs can present to women-led SMMEs; the barriers and challenges to accessing and using ICTs in business; as well as to make recommendations that enable and support the use of ICTs for women-led SMMEs in KwaZulu-Natal and the rest of South Africa. In order to gain a better perspective of the opportunities that ICT plays in women-led SMMEs, a sample of 32 women in KZN were chosen on whom to conduct a study. A mixed-methods research methodology was undertaken which included both quantitative and qualitative data. A non-probability sample of 32 women-led SMMEs were chosen from a population of 80 from the greater Durban area of KwaZulu-Natal. Data was collected by using a questionnaire designed by the researcher which comprised of close-ended questions. An additional structured interview schedule was also used which included open-ended questions in order to gain a deeper understanding of the problem. Statistical analysis included statistical testing using hypothesis testing, Cronbach’s alpha, factor analysis and correlations. Statistical analysis revealed that women-led SMMEs face many barriers and challenges in accessing and using ICTs in their businesses; these include time, family responsibilities, finance, as well as lack of skills and infrastructure. This study can benefit governments as well as women SMME owners, and other role players involved in women empowerment, in identifying the barriers and challenges these women face when accessing and using ICTs. It also makes recommendations for the use of ICTs in improving their business performance. This study recommends the elimination of bias, access to finance, education, skills training, access and awareness of ICT services, as well as government and business support for women-led SMMEs, in order for them to utilise ICTs to develop and grow their businesses.