News Release

Lack of e-Talent and Scalable Internet Tools Create Barriers to SME Adoption of e-Business

Canadian e-Business Initiative committed to working with industry associations and solutions providers to help smaller firms catch up
Oct 29, 2003

TORONTO, Ontario - October 29, 2003 - The Canadian e-Business Initiative, a private sector-led initiative that aims to further Canada's e-business success by focusing on productivity, leadership and innovation, announced today that Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises continue to lag in e-business adoption because they are facing two major barriers to e-business adoption. According to CeBI, SMEs are having difficulty finding the technically skilled employees (e-talent) they require. Of Canada's one million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) more than 20 per cent (or 200,000) have previously reported that they cannot find employees with the skills necessary to implement e-business solutions for their firms. SMEs also face a lack of tailored e-business solutions designed to satisfy their scalability and technology needs.

"Canada must work to address these weaknesses which are holding us back from creating a more dynamic and productive digital economy," said Terry Walsh, co-chair of the Canadian e-Business Initiative (CeBI) and President of Cisco Systems Canada Co. "We need further co-operation between industry associations, Internet-based business solutions vendors, academia and the public sector to respond to the needs of SMEs."

Mr. Walsh was speaking at today's CeBI semi-annual business meeting in Toronto, which brought together business leaders, industry associations, government and academics to find ways of addressing the e-talent challenge.

Canada's one million SMEs account for 60 per cent of Canada's economic output, 80 per cent of overall national employment, and 85 per cent of all new jobs. Given the widespread use of Internet-based business solutions that have changed the way businesses communicate and perform transactions, there's a significant demand for skilled employees - especially those who design, build, install and service Internet applications. In order to remain competitive in this environment, Canadian SMEs are being forced to deal with a two-tier challenge: finding the skilled employees they require and implementing Internet-based business solutions that fit with their specific technology and sectoral needs.

As reported previously in the Canadian Net Impact Studies, traditional sectors such as manufacturing and retail continue to lag in the adoption of more sophisticated Internet applications beyond hosting a Web site, such as e-procurement, online inventory management, e-marketing and e-payments for example. The problem is compounded by a lack of tailored Internet-based business solutions designed with the SME in mind. According to CeBI, many solutions on the market today are too costly, time consuming and overly complex for smaller firms to be able to implement.

"What ever the reasons, the e-talent mismatch is detrimental to Canada's productivity and economic growth," said Dr. Lorna Marsden, President and Vice Chancellor of York University and leader of CeBI's Benchmarking Team. "Lifelong skills development and training are going to be key to solving this shortage. We encourage SMEs to use college and university extension training programs to better develop skills."

Among CeBI's recommendations:

  • Both government and the private sector need to work with numerous stakeholders involved to foster an improved environment for e-talent growth;
  • Public/private partners need to work with educational institutions to deliver affordable programs for students and to address Internet business training needs;
  • SMEs need to take advantage of available resources, such as extension programs on e-business, available through many colleges and universities; and,
  • IBS vendors must co-operate with industry associations and industry leaders to develop standardized, sector-wide digital solutions that are scalable for use by SMEs.
CeBI will continue to work with industry associations and Internet-based business solution providers to design tools that can target various sectors and smaller firms that lag in e-business adoption.

"The research clearly demonstrates the importance of vendors continuing to invest in new technologies and applications to bring to our small and medium business customers," said John Maduri, Executive Vice President and President of TELUS Business Solutions and leader of CeBI's e-Business Engagement team. "Many Internet-based business solution vendors have difficulty selling to SMEs because they are not tailoring their solutions to specific sectors or smaller firms. SMEs have told us this is what they need."

About CEBI

The Canadian e-Business Initiative (CeBI) is a voluntary, private sector-led partnership that aims to further Canada's e-business success by focusing on productivity, leadership and innovation. CeBI is helping to create the right environment for e-business in Canada by advocating e-business adoption and use, advising on tax and investment rules that hamper economic growth, branding Canada as the tech-savvy country it is and benchmarking Canada's performance in the digital economy. CeBI is co-chaired by Nancy Hughes Anthony, President & CEO, Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Terry Walsh, President & CEO, Cisco Systems Canada. Find out more at

For information:

Willa Black
Cisco Systems Canada
Pager: 1-800-68-CISCO