NBN and industry to help small business bridge the digital divide

NBN Co has unveiled plans to work with industry to assist Australian small businesses to unleash the growth potential that the take up of digital technology can provide.

New Connecting Australia research highlights how high-speed broadband and cloud technologies are helping small business close the gap with large enterprise. However, it revealed that many small businesses have not fully realised their potential because they lack the skills, time or resources to invest in digital technology, or because they lack knowledge of the opportunities that technologies provide.

Working with industry bodies such as the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA), Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), NBN Co will seek to identify opportunities to engage with small businesses and provide information to help to improve their digital technology capability. Focused on localised, direct engagement, the program will build on NBN Co’s existing stakeholder activities, business industry partnerships, and ICT channel engagements to deliver small business briefings and forums, and integration with existing small business sector initiatives.

The research was conducted by economics and analytics firm AlphaBeta, revealing potential positive impact of technology investment on revenue and employment growth among Australian small businesses. The research draws on anonymised and aggregated data from a sample of tens of thousands of small businesses and found a correlation between spending on internet services and small business performance. However, the research also found a significant lag in small business digital technology adoption, which could be stifling opportunities for growth.

NBN Co Chief Executive Officer Stephen Rue said, “Almost all Australian small businesses now have access to high-speed, always-on broadband which is redefining the way they operate. Improvements in internet connectivity and the rise of cloud-based platforms have changed the game. While this era of ‘technology democratisation’ is levelling the playing field, we’re also learning along the way that increasing accessibility does not automatically lead to adoption. Small businesses need support to navigate the new world of technology and that’s why we’re committing to work more closely with industry and to consult with those that know small businesses best, to help share our experience and find solutions in the spirit of collaboration.”

Peter Strong, Chief Executive Officer, COSBOA, said, “We know that we all benefit when small business is successful. A key to the future prosperity of small businesses in Australia will be their ability to adapt and evolve in a digital environment. This data gives us, for the first time, a picture of the digital divide alive and well among SMEs. It also shows how important the internet is in helping small businesses be successful. More work needs to be done to help small businesses get comfortable with moving online and we welcome a cross-industry approach to raise awareness.”

Andrew Charlton, Director, Alpha Beta, said as well, “This study gives us an incredible insight into how tens of thousands of small businesses are using technology and what that means for their business….What we know now is that the small businesses investing in technology are more likely to grow revenue and more likely to create jobs. Critically, with the increasing affordability of ICT, small businesses do not have to spend a lot to get those benefits of growth. The real question from this study is how do we get more small businesses investing in ICT to stimulate more growth and more jobs throughout the economy.”

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