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Information about small and medium enterprises on lithuanian web sites [1]

One of the important ways in which Lithuania implements its employment policies involves co-ordination with the European Unions Lisbon Strategy and the way in which it is being implemented in the country. Validated in 2005, the Lithuanian programme for implementing the strategy helps to determine the major elements of employment policy. Small and medium enterprises are an important component of the domestic market. Information technologies allow clients who are distant from major information centres to access information. In this article, the authors analyse the way in which the Web sites of small and medium Lithuanian enterprises present information about them.


Dr Egle Kazemikaitiene, Tatjana Bileviciene, Mykolas Romeris University, Lithuania

INTRODUCTION

In 2006, the Council of the European Union set out new guidelines for member state employment policies which were based on the 2005 reforms of the Lisbon Strategy [1].  These guidelines were adopted in tandem with new economic policy guidelines.  Lithuania responded with a national programme on the implementation of the strategy which was approved in November of 2005.  The document states that the primary goal of Lithuanias economic strategy is to narrow the gap between Lithuania and the older EU member states when it comes to overall economic development.  A document focused on Lithuanias long term economic strategy (through 2005) speaks to activities and strategies in various sectors of the economy [2, 3].  Separate policies were designed with respect to economic factors related to social policy and employment and to small and medium enterprises.  The overall aim to slow down the pace at which SMEs were disappearing and to increase their competitiveness so as to enhance employment figures in the country.
This is very important for the people of Lithuania, among whom, according to a Gallup study in October 2007, more than one-half (53%) would like to be self-employed.  Even among those aged 15 to 25, 79% are hoping to create their own business someday.

DEVELOPING ENTERPRISE

Kuinskien [10] has studied the situation in Western Europe and found that SMEs have the greatest influence on competitive ability and expansion of the market economy.  SMEs represent 90% of all working enterprises in Europe.  The situation in Lithuania is similar, but the SME share in surplus value is far smaller than is the case in the older member states of the EU.  Small companies are more flexible in adapting to sudden changes in the economy, and special attention must be paid to the creation of favourable conditions for them.  Bartkus [11] argues that new SMEs must be developed in Lithuania so as to increase employment numbers, that existing companies of this type must be protected and made more competitive, that international co-operation in this area should be encouraged, and that efforts should be made to enhance the qualifications of SME employees.
Strategic government documents in Lithuania speak to creating a favourable environment for the further development of all businesses, but particularly SMEs, and to enhancing the enterprise and competitiveness of businesses, making sure that those institutions which assist in this area are effective and offer high-quality services.  A separate document on the development of SMEs between 2005 and 2008 lists a series of steps that are to be taken in this regard [4].
These strategic documents point to the fact that businesses, as an important component in modern society, require a situation in which the government assumes a certain amount of responsibility for them and has a vision about their future and their aims.  Lithuanias law on small and medium businesses [5] also defines ways of assisting such enterprises.
Lithuanian businesses are grouped in accordance to how many employees they have.  Figure 1 shows trends in the various groups of businesses between 2004 and 2007.


Figure 1.   Trends in different sizes of enterprises in Lithuania, 2004-2007
Source:  Lithuanian Statistical Department,
www.stat.gov.lt.

We can see here that most SMEs are very small indeed, with nine employees or fewer.  The number of SMEs increased between 2004 and 2007, but if we look at the index of trends in different groups of enterprises (i2007/2004), then we see that the number of medium-sized business has increased more rapidly (Figure 2).


Figure 2.  The index of trends in different groups of enterprises (i2007/2004)

Lithuanias 2006-2008 governmental programme (LRS, No X-767, 2006) notes that SMEs are the backbone of the national economy and a necessary prerequisite for the emergence of the middle class in Lithuania.  This means that the environment for such businesses must be as favourable as possible.

LITHUANIAN BUSINESS INFORMATION NETWORKS

Business success depends in part on the availability of information, consultations and educational services.  The government must provide not just organisational, but also financial support to businesses which have the proper abilities, knowledge and motivation, because SMEs are not always able to pay for consultation and educational services on their own.
A system of business information networks has been set up for SMEs, offering consultations and training on how a business is best organised.  Other institutions which are helping to achieve the goal of supporting SMEs include consulting centres, business incubators and technology parks.  It is government policy in terms of creating a favourable environment for SMEs to allow such businesses to receive comprehensive but inexpensive business information in a timely way and anywhere in Lithuania.  Business information centres and incubators have proven themselves in this regard, but there are also other needs in terms of ensuring the quality of services that are demanded by modern businesses.  These include issues such as quality management, certification, innovations, technology transfers, IT technologies, marketing, etc.  There should be bespoke focus on the needs of businesses operated by young people, women and differently abled persons.
The European Commission has established more than 300 European business information centres (EIC).  These form links with local, regional and national organisations which are familiar with business needs and work with SMEs in particular.  The network and the European Commission offer the help of independent auditors so as to guarantee that the supply of services is always at the highest level of quality.  There are three centres of this type in Lithuania one apiece in Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipeda.
A separate group of enterprises is made up of those that are run by people with differing abilities [8].  It is very important to help these businesses in terms of training, retraining and overall employment policies.  The EUs EQUAL project helps to produce instruments for the integration of differently abled people into the labour market, also encouraging them to establish their own businesses.  Centres which help in this regard are found in Lithuanias six largest cities, and they provide help to people with varying degrees of disability who can nevertheless work.  There is also assistance for differently abled businesspeople and representatives of social enterprises.  The majority of differently abled people who are involved in this system are vision-impaired or blind.  The centre in Vilnius offers information, consultation, education and practical assistance for differently abled businesspeople and the various organisations of the differently abled, helping them to find new business and other activities, to adapt to changing market conditions, to improve their competitiveness and to develop international companies.  There is a joint stock company, Group for the Development of Business and the Differently Abled, which promotes a humanistic, ethical and proper attitude toward people with different abilities.  The company offers a wide spectrum of services for differently abled persons, organisations of differently abled persons, and other individuals and legal entities.

LITHUANIAN BUSINESS WEBSITES

Lithuanias conceptual document on the development of the Information Society [6] says that the quick and simple development of information services is the main condition for dealing with economic and social issues such as creating jobs, ensuring economic development, and reducing economic and social differences in society.  It has been implemented in public administration in the sense of E-government and the delivery of services by electronic means.
Despite this, however, there are few Internet portals in Lithuania which supply information directly to small and medium businesses.
In 1996, the Economics Ministry set up a special agency for the development of SMEs in Lithuania.  Its Internet portal, www.svv.lt, went online in 1999.  It contains information for people who wish to start a business, develop an existing one, or simply learn about the business world.  Sadly, the agency and its portal were shut down in June 2007.
The authors of this paper have analysed Lithuanian business portals to find out what kind of information they offer.  The main portal is that of the Economics Ministry (www.ukmin.lt).  It contains a special section on small and medium enterprises, offering legal information, report on scientific research, and links to various business services that are available.  The portal can be adapted for the needs of differently abled people.
The Lithuanian Economic Development Agency has a portal that is called Gates to Business and can be found at www.lepa.lt/lt/index.html.  The agency seeks to make maximum use of globalisation and EU development and economic integration so as to facilitate the growth of the Lithuanian company and the development of Lithuanian business.
The portal of the Confederation of Lithuanian Employers (www.ldkonfederacija.lt) has little content for SMEs as such, but there is some information about financial support for them.  Under Questions and Answers one finds a  section called Small and Medium Businesses, but it makes reference to the aforementioned portal of the agency for the development of SMEs which, as noted, has been shut down.
The portal of the Confederation of Lithuanian Industrialists (www.lpk.lt) and that of the Agency for Business Support (www.lvpa.lt) only offer brief information about a new business campaign focused on the development of SMEs in Lithuania.
There are several business incubator portals, including that of the Vilnius Business Incubator (www.vvi.lt) and that of the EIC in Vilnius (www.eic-vilnius.lt) which offer information about the services that the relevant centres provide.
Information about national and international legal acts related to E-business and relevant legal practices in Lithuania and the EU can be found at www.ic.lt/e-teise. A database of consulting companies and consultations can be found at www.consult.svv.lt.   The database is used by companies and individual consultants who are prepared to deliver services to businesses that need them.
Several portals speak specifically to the needs of differently abled people who wish to become involved in business www.nvpb.lt, www.nvic.iti.lt, and www.vnvgrupe.lt.  These portals are not, however, specifically adapted to the needs of differently abled persons.
The Lithuanian Job Centre (www.ldb.lt) contains universal information about the status of social enterprises and their documentation.  This portal is adapted for differently abled people.
The bottom line here is that people who run SMEs will have trouble finding much specific information for them on Lithuanian business portals.  At best, there are lists of legal acts and useful references.  No portal contains decent information about starting up, launching and organising a business that kind of information was available on the now defunct portal of the agency for SME development.  New businesspeople have no opportunity to learn about the various aspects of small and medium enterprises unless they receive consultations from a business information centre.  Even the information on the Economics Ministrys Web site isnt really appropriate, because that information is too complex for the average reader.

CONCLUSIONS

Both Lithuania and the European Union understand that the development of the European economy will only be possible through polices of cohesion in the areas of employment and social affairs.  It is key to create favourable conditions for businesses, and particularly for small and medium enterprises.  Thought must also be given to the involvement of differently abled people in this process.
Information is a major tool for people, and information and communications technologies help in delivering information.  Lithuanian business portals, alas, are focused mostly on existing enterprises, with insufficient information about the establishment and development of new ones.  Business information centres which are supposed to help SMEs do not offer information about the background of existing ones.  Information technologies are also being insufficiently used for distance consultations.  Whats more, most business portals in Lithuania are not adapted for the needs of differently abled persons.
These are major problems which need to be resolved soon.  Specialised information portals are needed for SMEs, including those run by differently abled people.

REFERENCES

1. Regarding guidelines of employment policy of member states. Decision of Council of European Union. (2006/544/EB).
2. Lithuania Republic National Program of Realization of Lisbon Strategy Lithuania Government Resolution Nr.1270, 2005 11 22.
3. Long-term strategy of development of Lithuanian economy till 2015. Resolution of Seimas of Lithuania Republic Nr. IX-1187. 2002 11 12.
4. Concerning strategical trends schedule of development of small and average enterprise till 2008 and confirmation of schedule of development means of small and average enterprise for 2005-2008. Lithuania Government Resolution Nr. 1104, 2005 10 19.
5. Law of Small and Average Business of Lithuania Republic. Nr. VIII-935, 1998 11 24.
6. Concerning the Lithuanian national concept on the development of the Information Society. Lithuanian government resolution No. 229, 2001 02 28.
7. Regarding liquidation of Agency of development of small and average business of Lithuania. Order of Economy Minister of Lithuania Republic Nr. 4-155, 2007 04 23.
8. Law of Social Enterprises of Lithuania Republic. Nr. IX-2251, 2004 06 01.
9. Employment in Europe in 2006. Summary. General Directorate of employment, social affairs and equal opportunities of European Commission. October2006.
10. Kuinskien, M.  Verslumas ir aplinkos dinamikumas.  Investicijos monikusius iteklius: konkurencinio pranaumo siekis.  Materials from an international scientific conference, Vilnius, 2006, pp. 71-84.
11. Bartkus, E.  Smulkus ir vidutinis verslas darbo rinkos katalizatorius, Ekonomika, No. 67(2), 2004, pp. 1-11.
12. Report of Economy Ministry regarding implementation of means of development of small and average business in 20052008. 2006 m.  www.ukmin.lt, 2007 10 30, 16:11.


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eBaltics
13.11.2019


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