Alemayehu Molla and Richard Heeks
Developing countries are home to more than 80% of the world’s population, and are the site for growing use of e-commerce. There are theoretical claims that e-commerce could bring significant benefits to firms in developing countries, but we know very little empirically about the actual outcomes of e-commerce implementation. Our paper addresses this gap in knowledge through a survey of 92 businesses in South Africa, all of which have moved beyond the basic stage of e-commerce. The findings indicate that e-commerce benefits are, by and large, limited to improvements in intra- and inter-organizational communications. More strategic benefits relating to market access, customer/supplier linkages or cost savings were not found in the majority (more than 80%) of organizations surveyed. This therefore limits the likelihood of broader benefits such as incorporation into global supply chains, disintermediation, and improved competitiveness. Turning this somewhat disappointing e-commerce picture around requires a multi-prong strategy aimed at building the resources and capabilities of businesses, developing electronic-mediated business routines with partners and customers, and addressing national e-readiness and global trade regulation issues.
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