Exploring Information Technology for Local Business Development

July 1, 2011 in News, The Entrepreneur

By Joel T. Fagsao

Caption: Engr. Paul Foman-eg owner of FINEW Enterprises tries out the Point of Sale system as one of the participants to the Technology for Small and Medium Enterprise Development Workshop implemented by the Department of Trade and Industry-Mt. Province. The workshop was participated in by local business owners and BS Entrepreneurship students of Xijen College of Mt. Province. Online banking, e-mail, social networks, information search, spreadsheets and a point of sale system for retail and restaurant operators were introduced to local businessmen. The one day workshop was held at Xijen College last June 30, 2011.

Thursday of this week finds me running together with Xijen College’s IT teacher, Ms. Janice Langis Bosaing, the Information Technology for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development workshop.   The workshop, spearheaded by the Department of Trade and Industry-Mountain Province office was meant to improve the operations of the small business owner by taking advantage of available technologies.

This is where India is good at.  Information technology is being tapped to reach even the poorest of the poor.  For example, a village has a designated operator of a lone computer, connected to the Internet; the farmer-operator charges a small fee for information access by other farmers on the price of vegetables in the commodities market.  India realizes the importance of information technology and its contribution to small enterprise development and continues to make inroads in harnessing information technology for small enterprises.

The women members of a dairy cooperative that supply milk to a dairy firm are trained to use computers to maintain records, monitor production of each livestock under their care.  The Vadodara Chamber of Commerce of the State of Gujarat , India maintains a website to aggressively encourage overseas based Indians who have roots in Gujarat to invest, set up businesses in their homeland.  The two lady entrepreneurs that spoke in our class while I was training in India a few months back shared the importance of a company website to promote their products, garments and jewelry.  The websites provided 24/7 marketing exposure, had global presence and increased their network of buyers.

The experience is new source of inspiration to help our local businesses appreciate the benefits of Information Technology.  In a quick survey for local business operators in Bontoc, about 2 out of 10 do not have an e-mail account.  2 out of 10 use Facebook  but are not utilizing the social network to promote their business.

The workshop held at Xijen College’s computer lab last Thursday started with e-mail account registration then the session moved on to learning the basics of Spreadsheets.  Later, I shared the benefits of online banking services as this are already services that are available in the two commercial banks that operate in Mountain Province.  The conveniences of maintaining an online bank account includes fund transfer, bills payment, verification of bank transactions right on the business owner’s desk.  In the afternoon we moved on to a demonstration on the setup of a Point of Sale System.  A commercial point of sale system entails investments from the small business owner starting at P70,000.00 and up for a computer, the Point of Sale software, scanner and cash register.  I demonstrated the Point of Sale software developed by Dale Harris -that can be downloaded for free from the Internet.  The software runs on the DOS (Disk Operating System) platform and so it can run even on an old computer.  But the Harris software delivers!  I tested it five years ago, put it into operation and later found out that Harris’ software had improved much.  Towards the day’s end, we simulated a grocery with Paul Foman-eg of FINEW enterprises inputting the products info with the sound of the bar code scanner providing amusement.  Then I divided the participants into groups to do the ‘actual’ inventory of a grocery and inputting the data to help prepare the Point of Sale System.  Much fun filled the room as we simulated a convenience store operation with us lining up at the cashier to test the system and prove if the inventory tracking works.  The local restaurant operators, George Balusdan of Drop By Restaurant and Masandas Chakas of Anahya’s were exposed to how the Point of Sale system works for restaurant operations.  In the end the participants realized that it does not need a huge amount of money to integrate technology for your business.  Dale Harri’s free POS is enough to start with, besides it is a fully functional POS system.

Zarlyn Pec-ao, Freshman, BS Entrepreneurship student of Xijen College acts as cashier in the simulation exercise for a Point of Sale System.

Our local businesses need to catch up.  Yes, we do have CCTV cameras in some establishments but tracking inventory and knowing the state of your business’s finances at a glance is an important factor to consider.  I let my students in the BS Entrepreneurship course here at Xijen College, participate in the workshop so they would learn to appreciate the benefits of retail management with technology intergration.

I would be then much happy even if one of the participants put into operation the lessons they learned from information technology integration.  The POS software by Dale Harris can be explored at http://keyhut.com/pos.htm.