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Internet usage booms in medium-size business sector

The use of the Internet by small and medium-sized businesses in Switzerland is booming. According to a study by Berne University, it nearly doubled in the past 12 months.

The use of the Internet by small and medium-sized businesses in Switzerland is booming. According to a study by Berne University, it nearly doubled in the past 12 months.

The newly-released report finds that about 30 percent of the 25,000 businesses polled regularly use the Internet, while another 14 percent say they plan to go online in the near future.

Those figures are slightly below average when compared to other European countries, but the increase is still considered remarkable.

“Never before has a new technology taken hold so quickly,” said Pascal Sieber of the university’s business information technology department.

He conceded that despite the boom in harnessing the Internet as a business tool, actual e-commerce is still modest.

Only 3.9 percent of businesses are making 91 to 100 percent of their turnover via the Internet. Just under 80 percent of companies achieve ten percent of their turnover through online trading.

The figures only apply to business-to-consumer relations and are considered much higher at a business-to-business level.

“We estimate that turnover in the business-to-business sector is about ten times as high,” Sieber said.

Even though the Swiss authorities are offering support programmes for businesses planning to go online, Sieber says that nothing much will change unless established companies and traditional ways of doing business are challenged by new and innovative companies.

“Many small and medium-sized businesses are still working in a traditional way because their trading partners are not hooked up to the Internet,” Sieber said.

One of the success stories is Howeg catering, which launched its online presence as recently as 1998. While turnover through online business currently stands at 2.5 percent, the company expects that figure to reach up to 50 percent within the next five years.

From staff and wire reports.

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