Business information provision:The case of TINET in Zambia

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Kashweka, Kashweka
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This study investigates the performance of the trade information Network(TINET)of the common market for eastern and southern Africa(COMESA).It discussed the operations of TINET and the services which it offers to meet the information needs of the business community in Zambia,with a specific reference to Lusaka.The population for the study were large business organisations and small and medium enterprises(SMEs)involved in varius business activities such as manufacturing,agriculture,wholeselling/retailling as well as service companies registered as users of TINET.It also focused on TINET members of staff and the Export Board of Zambia(EBZ),the national focal point for TINET.Although the aim of TINET is to provide information to organisations such as government institutions,intergovernmental organisations and non-governmental organisations(NGOs),the study focused only on business organisations.Unlike government institutions,intergovernmental organisations and NGOs,business organisations operate in a more competitive environment and the decisions they take can be costly for the organisation if they are not based on adequate information.Business organisations therefore constitute a single group that would be expected,undernormal circumstances,to be users of an information service like TINET.Closed and openended questionnaires were used to collect data from business organisations.Out of 50 questionnaires,which were distributed,30 of them were returned.Closed and open-ended questionnaires were also used to collect data from four(4)of the five(5)members of staff targeted at TINET.Data were also collected fron EBZ using semi-structured interviews.Follow-ups on issues about TINET that required further clarification were made to TINET through e-mail.The study revealed that TINET is most helpful in assisting business organisations identify market opportunities for their products and/or services.It also revealed thatTINET is helping businesses through exposure of their products and identifying sources of inputs and consumer items.However,the study found that there is much tobe done if the network is to function according to the expectations of users.The research established that there are more large firms using TINET than small firms,an indication that small businesses are now benefiting from the services offered by TINET.The study identified inadequacy of the information available to meet user needs,financial constraints,understanding,absence of an information policy,lack of co-ordination among participating partners and inadequate publicity about the existence of TINET and its services as some of the problems affecting the operations and functions of the network.The study revealed that TINET was in the process of providing information at a fee in order to improve its operations and services.The study concluded by recommending TINET to consider various types of information and a range of services if the system is to serve its clientele better.It recommends that using the funds that will be gereated TINET should take its services accessible via libraries and other information centers.The study recommmends that the money generated could be used to afford participating partners regular opportunity to meet,exchange information and discuss issues pertinent to the operations and functions of the network.The study recommended the need for a sensitisation programme to motivate top-level management of the government organisations to realise the importance of information and make it readly available to TINET.Finally,the study recommended that libraries,government institutions,non-governmental oraganisations and mass media should be utilized to propagate the existence of and the services provided by TINET.
Business Information Provision , Business information needs , Trade Information Network Performance(TINET)