Adoption of Ethics by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Portugal


Fernando Naves (UK)


Little work has been done in evaluating electronic commerce in relation to the adoption and exploitation of Information Technology and Systems (IS/IT) in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) business in Portugal.

This paper is supported by three main sources:

a) Literature review, mainly sustained on legal documentation produced in the last decade, either by Portuguese Government and Parliament or adopted from European Union directives;

b) Analyses of recent reports relating debates promoted by institutions and public organisations concerned with SMEs environment and electronic commerce; and

c) An academic survey produced in June 2002, through e-mail, addressed to 1750 of top most successful Portuguese SMEs (ranked by net sales figures), questioning issues related with the adoption of the Web by such enterprises and their understanding of ethical issues.

This investigation will examine:

a) Major legal issues related to electronic commerce in Portugal, in general, and to SMEs, in more detail;

b) Difficulties of protecting privacy, with a tentative description of the measures taken by SMEs and individuals to protect it avoiding conflicts;

c) How the intellectual property issues in electronic commerce are considered in Portugal and the measures provided for its protection
d) Some of other ethical issues in electronic commerce and the measures taken by SMEs to improve ethics.

This paper discusses the current challenges being presented by the Internet. Starting by identifying a number of general issues particularly relevant to SMEs, including the availability of in house development expertise and supporting infrastructure, and the limited availability of personnel, it also discusses these new enterprise topics related with electronic commerce.

Drawing on the experiences achieved by means of the sources above mentioned and focused on the Internet presence of SMEs in Portugal, the paper also highlights the current state of following ethical current issues:

a) Understanding of the conflict between Internet indecency, obscenity and free speech, and of the attempts to resolve the conflict

b) Discussion around the control of domain names and spamming, treatment of cookies and around the implementation of taxation and encryption policies

c) Differentiation between contracts online and offline

d) Knowledge and recognition about fraud on the Internet

e) Description of the measures available in Portugal to protect buyers and sellers on the Internet

Final conclusions indicate the growing need for a more active participation of SMEs on the current developments of Ethics and Internet and, eventually, for the adoption of specific Managerial Issues.