New broadband digital divide emerges

22 Feb 2005

Two thirds of Irish SMEs do not use broadband, a new survey of SMEs by O2 Ireland reveals. The survey paints a stark picture of a new digital divide emerging, especially between city-based businesses and their rural counterparts.

Just over a third (34pc) of businesses surveyed use broadband while two thirds (66pc) do not. In terms of regional breakdown 52pc of businesses in Dublin have broadband but this falls to 20pc in Connacht/Ulster, 26pc in the rest of Leinster and 29pc in Munster.

The O2 survey was conducted by research firm TNS MRBI and covered 300 owner-managers and directors in SMEs nationwide. It was stratified by region and size of business.

The O2 survey also showed that broadband usage in the home was quite low, with only 31pc of Dublin owner-managers having broadband at home. This falls to 20pc in Connacht/Ulster and Munster and just 17pc in the rest of Leinster. For those who enquired about broadband access, almost one in three (30pc) found it was not available.

“These findings suggest a worrying scenario which was recently highlighted in the Forfás broadband benchmarking study,” said Paul Whelan, chief financial officer, O2 Ireland. “In terms of broadband rollout, not only is Ireland falling behind as a nation, but the rest of the country is falling behind Dublin in terms of rollout and usage.

“In order for Ireland to increase its broadband penetration, the Forfás report estimated that we need another 700,000 broadband connections by 2007. Eircom, which recently announced its latest broadband subscriber figures, has only 117,000 broadband subscribers in total. According to the Forfás report, broadband penetration in Ireland is 2.26pc compared to 11pc of the countries surveyed and this would suggest that Ireland has a long way to go to meet the recommendations made by Forfás,” Whelan warned.

By John Kennedy