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E-business in Service Industries : Usage patterns and service gaps

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The empirical data presented here have been derived from a company survey which has been conducted in eight service sectors across the EU. From these eight sectors four sectors have been chosen for the present analysis. The criterion for selection was comparability with respect to market orientation, regulation intensity and performance indicators. The dynamics of growth of the service industries analysed here varies between countries (E-biz Market Watch Group 2002, see also Preissl 2000). Country comparisons allow to observe specific specialisation patterns and possible deficits: Complete data sets are available for France, Germany, Italy and the UK. It will be particularly interesting to have a closer look at the situation in Germany, since this country is generally considered a ?service laggard? (see summaries of the debate in Cornetz/Schäfer 1999 and in Stille, Preissl, Schupp 2003). On the basis of the empirical material on e-business available from the survey, it will be possible to check, if the often stated lack of service sector dynamics (see, for example, Bullinger 1997) also holds for the introduction of innovative technology-based business models in service firms. If service sectors in Germany, compared with their main competitors in Europe are reluctant to introduce e-business, the service gap gains another dimension. The gap is usually identified in oversimplifying terms of shares of services in total employment and value added in a country compared with other countries. It has been pointed out that these indicators are not relevant to estimate the structural ?soundness? of an economy (Stille, Preissl, Schupp 2003) which rather rests on the systemic context that makes a particular mix of industries successful. However, undoubtedly, the performance of services that provide essential inputs in many processes of production and efficient services to private households plays an important role in generating a modern services-manufacturing mix. This leads to two central research questions which will be discussed in this paper: (1) how is the heterogeneity of services reflected in their use of ICT and e-business adoptions across Europe? and (2) do German service industries differ from other European countries with respect to the use of e-business opportunities?

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Brigitte Preissl

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