€2,500 online business voucher on way to help SMEs access €21bn digital economy

26 Apr 2013

Internet giants Facebook, Google and PayPal are to work on a special pilot involving 20 Irish companies to bring them into the digital economy. Announcing the pilot, Ireland’s Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton said a €2,500 Business Online Voucher is in the works to try and increase the number of Irish firms trading online by 2,000.

Irish people spend €4bn a year online, out of which only €1bn goes into the local economy. With the digital economy in Ireland set to grow to €21bn by 2017, firms can no longer ignore the internet.

According to the IE Domain Registry, as few as 23pc of Irish SMEs can handle online transactions.

The pilot is titled Activating Dublin. It has come from a joint initiative of Dublin Chamber of Commerce and Dublin City Council, and will give the businesses mentorship from the three internet giants.

They will provide support and expertise for the pilot, which will be rolled out amongst the businesses from various sectors and sizes. The results of the pilot will assist in the development of a national programme to get thousands of businesses trading online successfully.

“Getting Dublin businesses online is a key element of this action plan and by aiming to bring an additional 40pc of SMEs online and e-commerce enabled, we estimate that an additional 3,000 jobs could be created within five years,” said Gina Quinn, chief executive of Dublin Chamber. 

A McKinsey Global Institute survey of 4,800 SMEs in 12 countries demonstrated that SMEs who used web technologies extensively grew twice as fast and had double the revenue from exports, as well as businesses with a low level of web usage.

The study also found that high levels of web technology usage by SMEs also contributes to a 10pc increase in profitability.

Business Online Voucher

Bruton said the Government will soon be rolling out the Business Online Voucher.

He said he wants to increase the number of businesses currently trading online by 2,000. That increase is expected to generate 3,200 new jobs.

“Trading online offers a major opportunity to Irish retailers and SMEs, at a time when growth in these sectors is badly needed. Irish consumers currently spend about €4bn per year online, but only a quarter of that goes to Irish businesses, and only 23pc of Irish SMEs are trading online. International research shows that SMEs who adopt online trading grow twice as fast and export twice as much as their offline competitors.

“That is why we in Government have decided to target this opportunity as one of the headline Disruptive Reforms in our Action Plan for Jobs 2013. We are putting in place a range of measures, including a Business Online Voucher to the value of €2,500, to target an increase of 2,000 in the number of businesses trading online, creating 3,200 jobs.

“Today’s initiative by Dublin Chamber and Dublin City Council is very welcome, and I hope it will provide the template for a national programme later this year,” Bruton said.

Irish firms cannot afford to ignore the internet

Facebook Ireland director Gareth Lambe said Ireland has a rich history of entrepreneurship driven primarily by SMEs.

“Along with our partners, we want to use our experience to help these business grow both within Ireland and beyond.”

PayPal vice-president Louise Phelan said the initiative will help to boost the nation’s economy.

“PayPal has helped millions of businesses around the world start doing business online, including many in Ireland.”

Google’s vice-president in charge of Large Customer Sales Ronan Harris said Irish consumer spend is forecast to reach €21bn a year by 2017.

“This is an opportunity Irish businesses can’t afford to ignore any longer.

“We have the European headquarters of the world’s leading digital companies in Ireland. It’s a first-time commitment that they have come together to collaborate and share this expertise with Irish businesses to drive business and jobs growth and we are delighted to be a part of this programme.”

Sell online image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years