Managers in the world's fastest-growing economies place a very high value on the role of information and communications technology (ICT) in business and its effect on operational efficiency – but perceived high costs, skills shortages, poor telecommunication infrastructure and lack of central government ICT strategy are seen as obstacles to the effective use of ICT.

Those are the main conclusions of research presented today by Dell and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) at the Economist Emerging Markets Summit 2008 in London. The research, commissioned by Dell and completed by the EIU in September, polled 537 senior-level executives and managers in the four BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries; the United Arab Emirates and five other Gulf nations; and Mexico, South Africa and Vietnam. It focused on four topics: the impact of ICT, barriers to ICT use, skills and training, and policy factors.
The research's key findings include:
* Among firms who have been unable to obtain the technology they need, 41% of respondents say its high cost has been the primary obstacle;
* 45% cite insufficient national and local telecoms and Internet infrastructure as hindrances to better ICT use; and
* 36% state that a lack of adequate technology skills among employees prevents the effective use of ICT.
Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell commented at the summit: "The EIU's research makes it clear that businesses in emerging economies are challenged by the high cost of technology and a lack of infrastructure. We're tackling these barriers by developing affordable products and services that make managing their IT much simpler."
Dell adds that another essential part of the technology solution is helping more people in more places, including emerging countries, acquire skills to make the most of what IT can enable.
Carla Rapoport, managing editor,: technology, with the EIU, comments: "National variations that emerge in the survey suggest that Brazilian, Indian and Mexican managers provide a particularly positive assessment of the impact of ICT in their businesses and — in the case of Indian executives — their future ability to access key resources such as skilled staff."
Among other observations from Rapoport and the EIU research team are:
* Despite universal concern about skills shortages, 65% of emerging country managers expect to be able to hire the people they need with the right technology skills. The most optimistic response came from India, the least optimistic from South Africa.
* Four out of 10 people (39%) surveyed believe that, to supplement local recruitment of ICT staff, they'll also hire people from abroad. Countries where most executives don't share that belief include Russia, Brazil and India.
* While 89% of those surveyed believe that ICT has boosted their organisations' performance, the figure rises to 93% in Mexico and 95% in India.
* More than six out of 10 people say they have put ICT to greatest use in improving operating efficiency. This rises to 88% in Qatar and 74% in Mexico, but drops to 25% in Kuwait.
* The question, "Are individuals in my country entrepreneurial in using IT?" received an average 61% "yes" responses. That figure climbs to 74% in India and Qatar but drops to 40% in South Africa.