Small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) have been described by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN, 2013) as enterprises with an asset base (excluding land) of between N5million -N500million and labour force of between 11 and 300. SMEs are the engine of the economy --as they are essential sources of job creation, thereby creating entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. In fact, they are recognised as an integral component of economic development and a crucial element in lifting countries out of poverty (Wolfenson, 2001). Also, they have been the means through which accelerated economic growth and rapid industrialisation have been achieved in nations across the world (Sauser, 2005).
SMEs are veritable engines of the economy as they partake in countless transactions across the globe, creating a constant flow of value which forms the back bone of every nation's economy. While this is true, their growth and development in Nigeria has been disturbingly slow and seemingly stunted. A 2012 Enterprise Baseline Survey indicates that SMEs contribute 46.54% to Nigeria's GDP. Though, this seems like an improvement, the CBN however, reports that SMEs in Nigeria have not performed credibly well in terms of sales. Hence, SMEs are not playing the expected vital and vibrant role in the economic growth and development of Nigeria. Oyelaran-Oyeyinka cited in Aigboduwa & Oisamoje (2013), evidently captures the poor performance of SMEs in Nigeria relative to their counterparts elsewhere by revealing that although about 96% of Nigerian businesses are SMEs compared to 53% in US and 65% in Europe, they contribute approximately 1% of GDP compared to 40% in Asian countries and 50% in both US and Europe.
A report of the CBN at the FSS international conference indicate issues such as unfriendly business environment, poor funding, low managerial skills and lack of access to modern technology as key issues affecting the performance of SMEs in Nigeria (Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, 2007). However, the issue of business information availability and utilisation by SMEs owners/managers seems to have been overlooked--hence, necessitating this paper.
Business information can be seen as any piece of information or group of information working collectively to give an organisation competitive edge in the process of supporting such activities as forecasting, planning, control, coordination, decision making and operational activities (Butcher, 1997). Lowe (1999) on the other hand, describes it as information on those factors outside and largely beyond the control of the business which have a direct commercial significance.
Information today has become a critical resource in any sector or sub-sector of a nation's economy. In fact, it has been referred to as the fourth factor of production. Little wonder organisations and governments of developed countries invest a great deal in its acquisition. This is because the acquisition of the right type of information will lead to making quality decisions that will consequently affect sales and the overall business performance.
From the foregoing, the availability of business information resources for use by SMEs becomes imminent. The reason for this is not far-fetched as logic posits that availability precedes utilisation. The availability of business information can therefore be described as providing the right information to an individual for use in order to perform a specific business task (Haliso & Okunfulure, 2010). According to O'Hare (2007) business information includes company reports, share price data, profiles on executives, company directories, business statistics, credit ratings, market research reports, country profiles, trade journals and other related information materials. In a study of SMEs by Chiware & Dick (2008) in Namibia, it was revealed that the kind of information sources often used were informal sources within the business or customers, rather than established sources. This was because there were barriers in sourcing information from formal sources. Dalton cited in Shokane (2003) also posits that business managers' sources of information include personal sources of information (colleagues and friends); Newspapers; Printed Sources (trade literature, journals and reports); Mass media (television and radio); Information centers; Advisory services and the Internet.
There is no doubt that utilising business information resources contributes to overall business performance. Law cited in Haliso and Okunfulure (2010) affirms that the utilisation of information by organisations gives them the competitive advantage necessary to sustain their business. In the same vein, Ikoja-Odongo cited in Okello-Obura, Minishi-Majanja, Cloete, & Ikoja-Odongo (2008) emphasised the foremost resource which information has come to be, as its handling and utilisation determines to a large extent the success or failure of business activities. Keh, Nguyen, and Ng (2007) showed that there was a positive relationship between information utilization and SMEs performance...