SMEs get $5 million government boost to become online-savvy

The federal government is to spend $5 million creating online business toolkits to help small- and medium-sized businesses and not-for-profit organisations take advantage of the digital economy.

The toolkits will focus on educating business owners to understand and use online opportunities to grow their businesses.

Ten industry peak bodies will be able to apply in June for grants of up to $500,000 to create industry-specific toolkits.

“The digital economy offers tremendous opportunities to all Australians, particularly small businesses,” Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy Minister Stephen Conroy says in a statement.

“Businesses that integrate a wide range of online tools into their day-to-day activities will start seeing increased productivity and cost efficiencies.”

Senator Conroy’s department is seeking comment on the plan until May 29. The final guidelines will be released on May 31 and applications will close June 25.

A report accompanying the announcement says Australian small businesses are not using online opportunities as well as they could be.

An Australian Bureau of Statistics report, Business Use of Information Technology 2009-10, found less than half (41%) of Australian SMEs have a website, and only 27% accept orders online.

The broader economic impact of this underutilisation is significant, as SMEs make up around 96% of all Australian businesses.

The announcement of increased investment in education about digital opportunities is likely to popular, given calls by entrepreneurs for exactly this in response to the May budget.

This article first appeared on StartupSmart.

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