1 in 6 SMEs with No Web Presence Linked to Lack of Adequate Broadband

Jun 16, 2016

The findings of the ‘dot ie Digital Health Index’ study by the IE Domain Registry have outlined that about one in six (or 17%) of Irish SMEs do not have a web presence. A significant number of SMEs without an online presence  highlighted lack of adequate broadband provision as preventing them from getting online.

As a business representative organisation we are keenly aware of how dependent businesses are on their ability to connect both physically and digitally; connecting with customers and suppliers is vital for businesses of all sizes. This study found that inadequate broadband infrastructure was the reason for a quarter of firms being offline. This is unacceptable in a country that aims to be a leader in the digital economy and must be addressed as soon as possible. The study confirms what we at Chambers Ireland have been highlighting; that small businesses are missing out by not having a web presence. Nowhere is this felt more than in rural Ireland.

The recently announced delays to the implementation of the National Broadband Plan have left many businesses, especially those in rural Ireland in despair. We need to have an end in sight for the poor connectivity that has for too long been a feature of Ireland. The longer we allow this problem to fester the more damage we are doing to rural entrepreneurship and the ability of SMEs to grow and create jobs.

The research highlights that the proportion of enterprises with a web sales ability remains low at 19%. While there are undoubtedly costs and legal requirements related to setting up an online payments system, it can bring many benefits to SMEs hoping to broaden their market and trade further afield, and reach a demographic of younger, tech-friendly consumers. 19% is an astonishingly low figure which we must address if we are to allow Irish business to compete at home and abroad. Even if payment online is not an option, simply having a web presence can allow a business engage with customers, conduct marketing, and manage the brand of the business.

The study also highlighted how unforgiving customers can be when faced with a business who does not engage online. Three quarters of the consumers surveyed said they found it extremely frustrating when a business they want to interact with is invisible online, with a similar number stating that a company with a web presence is more likely to get their business. Customers expect these services from all business, it doesn’t factor in their minds that a company might suffer from poor broadband connection, it just reflects badly on the business.

An online presence should not be out of reach for one fifth of SMEs; the Government must focus on the National Broadband plan to achieve the target of 100% roll out as soon as possible. In conjunction with this, up-skilling and training resources should be provided to SMEs in the area of e-commerce and digital skills so that they can fully realise their potential in the national and global marketplace.

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