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Information Technologies

Information Technologies are good for your business
In the beginning of the 21st century the level of competitiveness of every economic subject in the world depends on the creation and spreading of a single universal resource – knowledge. The basic means to transform knowledge into economic growth are the contemporary Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). The economic potential of ICT is the topic of the day in most of the countries in the SEE and CIS regions with a view to the rapid structural changes in their economies in the past 15 years. The globalization of the world economy and the European integration processes make us ponder our place in this dynamic world and the perspectives we have. There is no person, company or country that has a ‘reserved’ place under the sun in this smaller, constantly changing and unpredictable world. Not long ago the economic competitiveness depended mainly upon the access to cheap natural resources and underpaid work force, however today it depends mostly on the capability to survive in the conditions of a growing global competitiveness. World markets are now oriented towards higher quality requirements all the time based on the concept that ‘there’s always a lower price’. The only way to compete and develop in these conditions is to be more effective, faster, more competent, and to offer higher quality products and services than your competitors. ICT is the only and best means to do that. There is no economic activity in the world that can be competitive in the long term without the use of Information and communication technologies.

What are Information and Communication Technologies?
The term Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is so widely used that the question about its limits logically emerges. In general, information technologies can be defined as technologies that ensure electronic exchange of information. The definition developed by the Organization of economic cooperation and development (www.oecd.org) follows this logic. As stated in Wikipedia ‘ICT capabilities vary widely from the sophistication of major western economies to lesser provision in the developing world. But the latter are catching up fast, often leapfrogging older generations of technology and developing new solutions that match their specific needs.’ Information technology (IT), as defined by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), is "the study, design, development, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems, particularly software applications and computer hardware."[1] IT deals with the use of electronic computers and computer software to convert, store, protect, process, transmit, and securely retrieve information.’ The sphere of ICT can include industrial products, designed to fulfill functions and upon data processing and communication realization, including transfer and visualization. They must use electronic processing in order to determine, measure and/or record physical phenomena or control physical processes. IT are also the services designed to ensure the processing of information and communication electronically. The economic benefits from ICT are numerous, but the most essential are:

Cheaper and more effective communications
On one hand communications play a key role in managing the business and the manufacture of products and services. They ensure the information flow inside the company as well as between the company and its clients and suppliers. On the other hand the communication channels are more and more diverse and replaceable, as some of them become a part of the culture of entire social groups. For example, sending and receiving short text messages (SMS) and using Internet instruments for immediate communication (such as ICQ or Skype) is extremely popular, used both for entertainment and for business. Young people prefer them because of their efficiency and low cost as well as because they are contemporary and fashionable. These means for communication are used more and more often for market positioning of products and services aimed at this ‘target group’.
Another example for effective communication is the electronic documentation as an analogue and substitute of the ‘paper’ documents. Electronic signatures are used more and more and sending and receiving documents through Internet now saves a lot of time and money, not only when communicating with the administration but in communication between companies or in the internal organizational processes as well. The development of alternatives of other traditional communications is also dynamic ,for example the telephone services . The flexible usage of different opportunities such as Internet telephony, grouping in mobile communications usage, mounting of communication spots for connection of mobile phones directly to the company telephone exchange, etc. can save up to 40-60% from the communication expenses of the company. Increased competitiveness and access to global markets
The opportunities for presenting, buying and selling of products and services in Internet have created a global electronic market place where clients can easily compare terms and prices both locally and internationally. This awareness of the consumer creates a very competitive environment for the suppliers and makes them permanently improve the quality and ways of presenting their products and services. The e-shops are becoming more and more popular and consumers are often using them as information source for acceptable price of the product they are looking for as well as for the possible range of companies that can deliver it. The absence or an efficient presentation of a company in the Internet automatically excludes it from this range. Furthermore, for the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region, the Internet pr5ovides the unique chance of accessing the international markets directly with much smaller investments compared to the traditional trade channels.
It is important, however, to note that the electronic communication channel by itself cannot compensate neither for low quality of a given product or service, nor the lack of managerial or marketing skills. That is why careful planning is necessary for the use of electronic communications in the context of the overall company strategy. The world practice shows that best and steadfast results are achieved through skilful combining of traditional and electronic marketing communications.

High efficiency of managerial and production processes
The lowered price and the increased demand have made the specialized software applications for control and support of the production activities (such as ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning) easily accessible not only for the bigger companies but also for the SMEs. A lot of localized ERP applications are offered in the different SEE and CIS countries which when chosen correctly and purposefully implemented can substantially improve the competitiveness of the company and even do it at a reasonable price. These products support the managerial decision making and reduce the necessity to engage substantial resources for routine activities. The time and finances saved in this way can be redirected to activities, which can bring high added value to the business.
In the last few years the use of IT in the SMEs in the CEE region has registered substantial development both in quantity and quality. After the boom of mobile communications usage such tendency can be expected also with ‘broadband’ Internet access as well as the implementation of computers and specialized software applications in the production process. The European integration of the countries from the region speeds up this process and the usage of modern information technologies will become a necessity for each company, willing to survive on this market.