Minister Rabbitte encourages SMEs to input into National Broadband Plan

Speaking in IBEC today to members of the Telecommunications Industry Federation, the Minister stressed the competitive importance of SMEs engaging on-line more intensively and the need to break down barriers which are discouraging a significant number of SMEs from harnessing the power of the internet.

In a briefing on the report of the recently published “Next Generation Broadband Taskforce Report” the Minister highlighted comments by the Taskforce on the challenge and opportunities which the internet presents for SMEs. “On the one hand that Irish shoppers spent over €3 billion online in 2010, yet there is evidence that approximately 70% of this spend goes overseas” Minister Rabbitte said. “Against this, it is estimated that there has been an 8% drop in high street sales” he continued. The Minister noted that as many as that 20,000 Irish SMEs are not yet online. “Clearly, lack of engagement is going to pose an ever increasing challenge for small enterprises. But it is also an opportunity” Minister Rabbitte said. The Minister noted a recent report for the European Commission by, McKinsey which states that 75% of economic growth attributed to the internet, relates to traditional non-ICT sectors.

The Minister queried as to whether there are specific barriers that discourage greater SME utilisation of the internet. Commending recent campaigns by the broader telecommunications industry to help SMEs engage better, the Minister said he hoped to work more intensively with industry to “reduce roadblocks and unlock the potential for eCommerce for Irish SMEs”. In this regard, the Minister noted that “the question of citizen and SME engagement, as well as access, would be key pillars of his forthcoming National Broadband Plan”.

The Minister said that he is particularly keen to hear feedback from small business and is contacting all the major SME organizations, inviting them to comment within the month on the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce Report and on their views in relation to access and engagement.

“The invitation to comment is an opportunity for SMEs’ collectively and individually to influence Ireland’s Next Generation Broadband Plan and a new National Digital Strategy. The purpose of these initiatives will be to bring Next Generation Broadband to as many places as possible as soon as possible, and to ensure that SMEs and citizens are motivated and enabled to transact their business and social activities online”, he added.

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