NBN to help SMEs boost economy

‘The NBN will open up many doors that will also help small businesses find new customers and enter new markets,’ Peter Strong, CEO, COSBOA.

Nearly $4 billion per year could be injected into the economy by small and medium businesses that take advantage of the national broadband network – NBN, according to University of Melbourne research.

The faster speeds would also enable wider competition and meant local businesses could no longer be complacent, the report’s author Dr Leith Campbell – researcher at the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Energy-efficient Telecommunications – told AAP.

‘If you’re the local coffee and sandwich shop, you think, “My competitors are the people next door”…but you see all the time that broadband is disruptive,’ Dr Campbell said.

‘Businesses should take these services up and if they don’t they’ll be disrupted by people who do.’

The NBN would make the difference for smaller businesses which would not otherwise have easy access to cloud computing or e-commerce, according to the research.

The report also found faster internet is worth a potential 2% increase in both gross domestic product and household consumption.

The two big winners would be health services delivered over the internet and an increase in remote work, Dr Campbell said.

‘These two clusters of services do actually make a significant difference to the economy,’ he said.

The research predicted both industries would expand to 12% of the workforce when enabled by faster broadband, mirroring similar numbers in the US.

Although most of the growth would fall in the capital cities NBN Executive General Manager of Business Ben Salmon said the network is also bringing business to regional centres.

‘We’re seeing whole communities change as a result of new technology and connectivity as more businesses gain access to fast broadband,’ he said.

Peter Strong, CEO of the Council of Small Business Australia – COSBOA – also believes the NBN will be a positive development for small business.

‘The impact of the NBN on SMEs is about the impact on the individuals who run these small businesses,’ he told Inside Small Business on Tuesday.

‘They will have more opportunity to engage with customers, to develop new products and new processes, which should have a positive effect. The NBN will open up many doors that will also help small businesses find new customers and enter new markets.’

Mr Strong warns that while this should have a positive effect on the economy, it will require some investment from small businesses, both time and financial.

‘The challenge will be for small business owners to find the best way to implement change without too much pain and the most cost effective pathway to minimise so-called disruption. An SME can be the disruptor or the disrupted, or both.  Small businesses need to understand change, when and why it is happening and the likely effects, both positive and negative.’

‘In order for small businesses to benefit fully from the NBN, we recommend that they work with their governing associations, who fully understand their industry’s current and future needs and can assist in managing the process, to best help them,’ Mr Strong concluded.

AAP and Inside Small Business

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