The federal government has placed the digital economy among its top priorities in this year’s federal budget, and SMEs stand to benefit in a number of ways from the government’s $1.2 billion plan.
One of these ways is via the Digital Solutions — Australian Small Business Advisory Services (ASBAS) program, which is set to be expanded with an additional $12.7 million in funding.
The program is already up and running, having first been established in 2018 and later expanded in the 2020 budget. So who can access it, and what do you get?
How does the Digital Solutions — Australian Small Business Advisory Services program work?
The Digital Solutions program offers small business access to free or subsidised advice and training, via one-on-one consultations or group workshops and webinars.
The ‘digital’ nature of the advice is broad and covers topics such as websites and selling online, social media and digital marketing, small business software, online security and data privacy.
The advice is provided by selected ASBAS providers in each state and territory. These providers are also currently offering small businesses more general business and advice because of the ongoing effects of COVID-19, including in areas such as crisis management and business continuity planning, cashflow and finance management, staff management and retaining customers.
How do I know if my business is eligible?
This will depend on how many people you employ. Small businesses with up to 20 full-time or equivalent employees can access the Digital Solutions program.
Does my business have to be located in a certain area to access the program?
No. The program’s services are offered across the country in all metropolitan and regional areas.
There are service providers in each state and territory, the details of which can be found here.
According to the government, advisors in the Digital Solutions program are formally qualified in business or IT-related fields and have a minimum of two years’ experience working with SMEs.
What does it cost?
The first time your business uses the Digital Solutions program is free. After that initial use, services are subsidised at a price of less than $60.
What will the extra funding in this year’s budget mean?
We’ll have to wait until the federal budget is handed down to see the full details of this budget measure; however, the government says the $12.7 million extension to the program will give 17,000 businesses access to advice on their digital needs.
These businesses will be able to “transition to operating in a digital economy, which will directly benefit business operations, lift their long-term productivity and help them protect against cyber-security threats”, according to a fact sheet about the government’s broader digital economy plan.
The government said it will also commence a pilot to offer the same services to the not-for-profit sector. The pilot will include 200 not-for-profit organisations that are commercial in nature, including Indigenous organisations.
Announcing the government’s digital economy plan on Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the funding will help Australia “keep our foot on the digital accelerator to secure our economic recovery from COVID-19”.
“Every business in Australia is now a digital business,” he said.
“This transformation is not merely a national one that needs to happen — it’s a global one that is happening”.
Where do I apply for the Digital Solutions program?
To access the Digital Solutions program, you must contact a service provider in your state or territory. The full list is available here.