Free scheme to help SMEs develop their online presence

2 Sep 2010

The WebActivate programme aims to help 600 SMEs get online for free and develop their digital strategies, with the help of ‘Web-activators’.

The programme is being run by the Digital Skills Academy, with support from The Digital Hub, as well as Chambers of Commerce. It will be delivered in partnership with four colleges of further education, including St John’s College, Cork, Galway Technical Institute and The Digital Hub, Dublin.

Interested businesses are invited to apply to take part in the WebActivate project by 15 October, with 600 SMEs being accommodated in the first phase.  

As well as helping businesses that want to go online, the scheme is also helping those who are currently unemployed, with 200 ‘Web-activators’ receiving training in areas such as internet publishing and iMarketing in Dublin, Cork and Galway.  

The trainees will obtain six weeks’ ‘in-centre’ training and then spend 12 weeks on structured work placements, assisting small businesses throughout the country in creating an online presence.

There are no costs involved for participating businesses and ‘Web-Activators’ will not need desk space, as they will be equipped to work from home.

WebActivate benefits for businesses

Dr Stephen Brennan, director of Marketing and Strategy with The Digital Hub, says participating in the WebActivate project will give businesses a competitive edge.

“Businesses are losing customers every day because they have not embraced digital technologies. Recent research shows that when Irish consumers go online to look for a product or service, 70pc of them fail to find what they’re looking for in Ireland. This compares to less than 10pc in the UK.  
“Irish people spent over €2.1bn online in 2009, but most of this went outside the country. The first thing most people do today when they want to find something is go on the internet. But if a restaurant, shop or leisure facility doesn’t have an online presence, then how does this growing number of customers know they’re there? There are currently at least 30,000 businesses in Ireland without an online presence and these businesses are losing customers every day because they have not embraced digital technologies.
“WebActivate aims to redress this situation by helping small businesses throughout Ireland establish an online presence,“ adds Brennan.
Paul Dunne, director of the Digital Skills Academy, says more than 100 businesses have already applied to take part in the WebActivate project.

“Our aim is to have 600 small businesses involved in the project in total.“

The project is being run as part of the Labour Market Activation Fund 2010.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic