The deputy president of Chambers Ireland and HP’s e-commerce guru Dr Chris Coughlan said that Irish SMEs are central to the next phase of Ireland’s economic success, but warned that this won’t happen unless the uptake and usage of broadband increases.
Dr Coughlan, was speaking at the launch of Chambers Ireland’s 2007 E-business Survey which was researched in partnership with the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).
The survey found that 79pc of companies have internet access and the majority of these (62pc) are using broadband connection (52pc DSL and 10pc wireless).
“There’s a certain amount of long overdue good news in the report,” says Dr Coughlan, “but it also throws up a number of challenges.
“My biggest concern is that we need to increase the uptake and usage of broadband amongst SMEs. SMEs have a critical role to play in the knowledge economy. They represent the opportunity to grow value-added businesses and increase indigenous wealth.”
Dr Coughlan warned that SMEs must also develop a global mindset that appreciates it is performing within a 24×7 economy where business can occur at any time, anywhere.
“Businesses must also understand e-commerce applications, including e-government, that will have an impact on their business. Time saving, increased productivity, reduced costs, customer satisfaction and most of all increased profit from performing not on a national but on a global basis.”
Coughlan said it is incumbent on SMEs to increase their awareness, understanding and expertise in using the internet to become global businesses.
He also asserted that the first phase of Ireland’s economic growth was derived through foreign direct investment (FDI).
The second phase of economic growth, however, will be underpinned by the performance of SMEs. “The key thing to remember is that growth will be derived through increased use of broadband.”
A key way of increasing SME usage of broadband, Dr Coughlan suggested, would be for the Government to offer incentives in the form of tax breaks, grants or subsidies if they are using the internet to conduct business.”
By John Kennedy