Call for National Broadband to be redeveloped for SMEs

25 Oct 2018

Image: © Louis-Michel DESERT/

Most Irish consumers do not believe that their main street is equipped for the digital age.

The Irish Government must redevelop and reprioritise the National Broadband Plan (NBP) in favour of SMEs, the CEO of the IE Domain Registry (IEDR), David Curtin, has urged.

“Despite the near collapse of the current project, the Government must not lose sight of the fact that SME e-commerce is essential to not only balanced economic development across Ireland, but key to the future success of Ireland Inc in an increasingly competitive, globalised world,” Curtin said.

‘Both industry and Government must recognise Irish SMEs’ ongoing lack of e-commerce ability’

“A short-term measure would be to fast-track the development of more regional ‘digital hubs’, like Gorey and Skibbereen, which act as magnets for local investment.”

The NBP was recently thrown into disarray with the resignation of former Communications Minister Denis Naughten, TD. An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD, has appointed an auditor, Peter Smyth, to determine if the plan, which has one final bidder, has been compromised or if it is fit for purpose to go ahead.

Ireland’s Internet Day

Curtin’s call on Ireland’s Internet Day (25 October) comes as research shows that the vast majority of Irish consumers believe that their local main street is not equipped for the digital age.

When asked why, 40pc said that their local shops are not online. 22pc said that booking appointments or reservations online is not a priority for their local community. In areas outside of Dublin, 19pc said their local town’s internet quality was too poor to facilitate e-commerce.

Crucially, 65pc said they would buy more from their local shops if those shops had some form of click-and-collect service that allowed them to order a product online and pick it up in store.

In total, 46pc of people can’t book appointments online for services in their local town. This figure drops to just a third (33pc) in Dublin, but rises to more than half (51pc) in areas outside the capital. Hairdressers are the most likely to offer online booking (29pc in total) while handymen and mechanics are the least likely (both 12pc).

The research coincides with the launch yesterday (24 October) by Enterprise Ireland of a €1.25m Online Retail Scheme targeted at retailers that want to develop an online presence.

Ireland’s Internet Day will be officially celebrated in Gorey, Co Wexford, today. Gorey was chosen as Ireland’s first ‘Digital Town’ in a new IEDR initiative aimed at promoting digital skills and knowledge in regional areas.

Over the last four weeks, the IEDR has worked with community organisations and businesses in Gorey to develop their digital skills and online presence, and showcase the digital achievements of the town.

The age of convenience

“Ireland is digital,” Curtin said. “We use multiple devices to access the internet, we are quick to try or adopt new technologies, and we use the internet in diverse ways, whether to purchase goods and services, learn about the world, connect with friends, share our creative pursuits or find love.

“The internet has also enabled an age of convenience. We can buy our weekly shop when we’re on the bus to work, apply for a loan in bed and book our holiday from the sofa. As consumers, we expect this kind of service and ease of use if we’re buying from our local shop or from an international retailer.”

Curtin said e-commerce is worth €12.3bn to the Irish economy but the IEDR’s recent SME Digital Health Index research shows that just three in 10 Irish SMEs can take sales orders online.

“This is despite the fact that Irish consumers are patriotic and want to support their local business more. Two in three consumers would happily buy from their local shops if they had some kind of e-commerce service, like click-and-collect. Until that service is offered, however, consumers will simply continue to spend money with more convenient, user-friendly international retailers.

“Both industry and Government must recognise Irish SMEs’ ongoing lack of e-commerce ability,” Curtin said.

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