The majority of SMEs in Ireland are unaware that they are liable for the online activities of their employees. Just 37pc of firms are aware with the remainder running the gauntlet of prosecution if employees engage in unlawful activities online.
These were some of the findings of the latest E-business Survey conducted by Chambers Ireland in partnership with ComReg.
The survey also found that many small businesses are failing to make use of e-business applications and are missing out on savings that could be accrued by using services like online banking, e-purchasing and online sales.
The survey found that 79pc of companies have internet access and that the majority of these are using a broadband connection, indicating that firms are migrating from standard dial-up and ISDN lines to DSL and wireless broadband.
In 2005, only 36pc of companies accessed the internet via a standard dial-up connection. Today just 11pc of businesses now use dial-up.
DSL connections now account for 36pc of business internet connections as opposed to 12pc two years ago.
The report’s authors warned that broadband policy in Ireland must now shift away from availability and towards quality and the creation of ubiquitous next generation networks (NGNs).
Chambers says that fibre to the home and business (FTTH/B) must be delivered to 80pc of domestic and commercial premises with wireless used to cover the remaining 20pc.
The survey found that 10pc of businesses in Ireland have been unsuccessful in their attempts to get broadband.
Firms that have requested an upgrade (35pc of those without broadband) are still awaiting installation and Chambers Ireland has underlined this as a key cause for concern.
Only 37pc of companies are aware that they are liable for the online activities of their employees, which Chambers says is unsurprising given the difficulties many firms have in keeping track of numerous pieces of employment regulation.
Another concern is the lack of awareness among employers regarding their obligation to inform staff if they wish to monitor employees’ emails and files.
“What this survey suggests to me this time is that we’ve passed the tipping point for broadband usage amongst Irish businesses,” Chambers Ireland’s director of policy Sean Murphy told siliconrepublic.com.
“Many firms are still using entry-level broadband but as data requirements are increased firms will move to fibre or wireless technologies.
“We believe that the internet is having a material effect on the performance of SMEs. New sales channels have arisen because of the internet. eBay’s marketplace has led to the creation of micro-enterprises across Ireland.”
One of the alarming findings of the SME survey was that while 17pc of SMEs accessed the Government’s eTenders procurement website, only 4pc actually engaged in tendering. Murphy says that this indicates the cost of sales on tenders are too high for most SMEs.
Despite this, 52pc of companies with internet connections reported using Revenue Online and 41pc reported using Motortax.ie. The Companies Registration Office ranked third highest with 29pc of internet connected respondents having visited it.
The survey found that Eircom is the leading supplier of fixed telecom services in Ireland with 81pc of the market, with its nearest rival BT with just 3pc of the market.
While 26pc of the firms surveyed said they have switched telecoms supplier at some point, some 49pc have switched back to their original supplier in the past 12 months.
By John Kennedy