Small firms can't access broadband: CCI
Three out of 10 small and medium sized companies in Ireland have been unable to upgrade to broadband mainly due to lack of availability in their areas.
This was one of the main findings of a survey of 601 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) published by the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland (CCI). The e-business survey also showed that just 29 percent of companies access the internet via broadband with 33 percent still using a standard phone line.
The main advantage of a broadband connection to users was that it was faster and more efficient than traditional means of connecting to the internet. It also enabled companies to e-mail and download from the internet at greater speeds.
A regional divide was clearly evident from the survey results; while 66 percent of Dublin-based companies have broadband, just 41 percent have high-speed internet access in the Midlands and 44 percent in the Border region.
With the urban sprawl accelerating, rural areas are suffering from depopulation and commuting times are increasing, according to Sean Murphy, CCI's head of research, who said, "the need to facilitate flexible working arrangements is growing, yet digital accessibility is still poorly provided for. By unlocking the full potential of the digital marketplace, many of these challenges can be tackled."
The survey also found a direct link between broadband connections and increased usage of all e-business applications, with those with broadband more likely to be using e-business applications.
On the back of that evidence Murphy said that broadband is the key to the creation of a real digital marketplace. "We must continue to invest in the promotion of broadband and re-position ourselves as a leader in the e-enabled and e-user league tables," he added.
As could be expected e-mail and web browsing emerged as the most prevalent e-business applications for companies at 92 percent and 71 percent respectively. The use of online banking (58 percent) and revenue online services (41 percent) were also popular with SMEs.
Overall only 8 percent of companies surveyed said they had submitted a tender to the government e-tenders website, although this rose to 20 percent amongst companies with a turnover greater than EUR5 million.
Looking to the end of the year the SMEs surveyed said they would be spending, on average, 4.4 percent of their turnover on IT in 2005. Mary Cleary, Chair of CCI's Digital Policy Council said: "It is vital that some of these financial resources are channelled into enhancing the IT skills of employees."
For the survey MORI Ireland interviewed 601 businesses with less than 250 employees around Ireland.