Noting a recent report for the European Commission by McKinsey which states that 75pc of economic growth attributed to the internet relates to traditional non-ICT sectors, Ireland’s Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte urged business leaders to get their firms online.
At an IBEC briefing on the report of the recently published ‘Next Generation Broadband Taskforce Report’, Rabbitte highlighted comments by the taskforce on the challenge and opportunities the internet presents for SMEs.
“On the one hand that Irish shoppers spent over €3bn online in 2010, yet there is evidence that approximately 70pc of this spend goes overseas" Rabbitte said.
“Against this, it is estimated that there has been an 8pc drop in high street sales," he continued.
Rabbitte noted that as many as that 20,000 Irish SMEs are not yet online. "Clearly, lack of engagement is going to pose an ever-increasing challenge for small enterprises. But it is also an opportunity," he said.
The minister noted a recent report for the European Commission by McKinsey which states that 75pc of economic growth attributed to the internet relates to traditional non-ICT sectors.
More SMEs need to get online
Rabbitte queried as to whether there are specific barriers that discourage greater SME utilisation of the internet. Commending recent campaigns by the broader telecommunications industry to help SMEs engage better, Rabbitte said he hoped to work more intensively with industry to "reduce roadblocks and unlock the potential for e-commerce for Irish SMEs."
In this regard, Rabbitte noted that the question of citizen and SME engagement, as well as access, would be key pillars of his forthcoming National Broadband Plan.
Rabbitte said he is particularly keen to hear feedback from small business and is contacting all the major SME organisations, inviting them to comment within the month on the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce Report and on their views in relation to access and engagement.
“The invitation to comment is an opportunity for SMEs collectively and individually to influence Ireland’s Next Generation Broadband Plan and a new National Digital Strategy.
"The purpose of these initiatives will be to bring Next Generation Broadband to as many places as possible as soon as possible, and to ensure that SMEs and citizens are motivated and enabled to transact their business and social activities online," he added.