oa South African Journal of Information Management - Importance of digital annual reports
Dramatic advances in communication technology have transformed the way companies provide corporate annual report information to the investment community. The number of companies with investor relations information on the Internet has increased exponentially over the last five years. The inadequacies of hard copy paper-based annual reports are encouraging companies to take advantage of the interactive nature and benefits of the Internet as a distribution medium. Businesses use the Web to disseminate information about activities, performance, news items and financial and accounting material. These on-line annual reports are creating challenges and problems for companies, auditors and regulatory and standard setting bodies. The Internet is unregulated and global. Governments and other authorities are finding it increasingly difficult to regulate the Internet environment. Companies in South Africa are not legally required to place annual reports on the Web. Any company that does so is doing it voluntarily. There are no specific laws and rules that govern what companies must disclose on the Web. Companies are free to include as much or as little as they deem appropriate. In this article, the different development stages of Web-based annual reports on the Internet are assessed. The various electronic formats currently used by companies to present digital annual reports are identified and the current state of adoption of the Internet as a delivery and communication mechanism for annual reports in the largest companies in South Africa is determined.
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