National Digital Strategy to help more businesses trade online
Minister for Communications says strategy will position digital at centre of economic recovery
A National Digital Strategy that aims to assist members of the public and businesses to ‘do more online’, will be published today by Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times
A National Digital Strategy that aims to assist members of the public and businesses to “do more online”, will be published today by Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte.
Mr Rabbitte said the digital part of the economy is growing 16 per cent per year, more than 10 times the rate of growth of the economy as a whole. Furthermore, digital contributes 4.4 per cent, or €7.1 billion, of Ireland’s GDP. So technology should be exploited to assist with economic recovery.
“Part of the recast of our economy is to grasp our digital opportunity and we’re not doing that,” he said.
The strategy aims to see the complete rollout of 100Mbps of broadband to all second-level schools in Ireland and the launch of an awareness campaign to show members of the public the benefits of internet engagement. It will also provide supports to traditional enterprises to help them realise the full opportunities of online trade and transactions.
Mr Rabbitte said Ireland’s success as a high-tech economy is well publicised. Yet for a variety of reasons the push to get the Irish economy and its citizens online still lags behind its potential.
He said up-skilling students to the highest standards of ICT and digital media and encouraging people who don’t use the internet to embrace the possibilities of digital online will serve to grow the digital economy and promote greater inclusiveness in our society.
The strategy aims to secure more citizen engagement, to empower members of the public to engage with the internet to reduce social isolation, address a work-life balance, save money and participate in community and business activities that they could not otherwise access.
More than half a million Irish people have never used the internet and Mr Rabbitte said a lack of digital skills among citizens has been a major barrier to them using the internet.
As a result, a BeneIT training grants scheme will be introduced to fund digital skills training.
The aim of the strategy is to reduce the number of people of who haven’t used the internet by half over the next 2.5 years.
Less than a quarter of small companies in Ireland are selling online. Against this backdrop, Irish consumers spent about €3.7 billion online last year, with 70 per cent of that spend going out of the country. Furthermore, at least 30,000 Irish businesses do not trade online.
Mr Rabbitte said the trend towards increasing online spending represents a real challenge for Irish businesses as just 23 per cent of small companies use ecommerce. This proportion could be even less for SMEs with less than 10 employees.
The strategy aims to get 10,000 Irish businesses online for the first time and 2,000 businesses trading online with the introduction of “trade online” vouchers and a “Winning with Web” awareness scheme. The vouchers are valued at up to €2,500 and can be redeemed against the cost of establishing an online presence.
“The evidence we have is that small companies grow twice as fast and employ twice as many people if they exploit technology,” Mr Rabbitte said.