Government investing to digitise small and medium businesses

The government has pledged investment, as part of the ‘Do More Online’ campaign, to develop small and medium sized UK businesses’ online capabilities.

Rachel Neaman, CEO of digital skills charity Go ON UK, has said of the current lack of digital presence of the UK’s smallest businesses, “31% of small businesses in the UK lack basic digital skills… just half of small businesses and charities have a website.”

£2 million of funding will be provided to 22 projects through Local Enterprise Partnerships, to help small businesses increase their digital presence. Examples include the establishment of a digital TV channel in Manchester, to provide a network of advice, local events and improved connectivity between regional businesses.

The government will further support the Do More Online campaign with resources and advice for businesses with a website and the business support helpline 0300 456 3565

Business and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock said, “thousands of potential customers are searching online for local small businesses and without an online profile businesses will lose out. To make sure consumers get the best deal and small businesses spread their nets far and wide, the government is investing in a range of advice to help them do more online. I am committed to making the UK the best place in the world to start up and grow, and this is integral to achieving that.”

Businesses including Exact UK, HP, Microsoft, Telefonica, The Coalition For A Digital Economy and Virgin Media Business have all endorsed the campaign.

BIS Entrepreneur-in-Residence Simon Devonshire said, “British businesses should consider having a presence online as more important than having an office landline telephone number… consumers are more likely to trust a business with a website and consider a business more credible if they offer the ability to transact seamlessly online.”

But despite the acknowledged importance of a digital presence, figures show that around 2 million of the UK’s small and medium sized businesses do not have any form of online presence and even those that do currently are lacking the functions to sell online and as such are missing digital opportunities.

Figures from Santander’s Business Growth Survey for 2014 found that UK businesses are currently struggling to export their products; according to Marcelino Castrillo, Managaing Director of SME Banking at Santander, of those UK businesses with plans to export, “more than a third (34%)… don’t have their own website and 63% don’t currently have the capacity to accept online payments.”

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