Jane Shelton

Bound up by broadband? Think of the poor home-based entrepreneur.

Get online to keep on-track

jane shelton

In the whole debate on broadband raging between political parties, there is very little emphasis on how important broadband is to the home-business sector. 

Yet for this fast-growing sector of the economy, broadband is crucial. It’s interesting to learn from Morgan Research that we (the home-based workforce) are much more active users of the internet than the wage slaves at the big end of town.

Nearly nine out of 10 home-based workers have used the internet in the past week (that’s 2.4 million people online in Australia each month), dwarfing even the use by small business owners, which is already at 77% of owners and proprietors of smaller enterprises.

It’s a pity that both the Government and the Opposition are only now starting to talk up a high-speed broadband option for us to help us network on a global basis.

The reality, according to Morgan Research, is that 60% of home-based workers use the internet eight or more times a week compared to 42% of small-business owners and 30% of cautious investors who use dial-up financial services.

In fact, only 6% of home-based workers have never used the internet – a third of the number in the general population.

When you are starting out at home, nothing is more important than finding ways to save on costs and overheads by using the web and networking with like-minded individuals.

And as you are at home, staying in touch and up-to-date on the web, while not quite the same as having a coffee at a café with work colleagues, is vital to a growing home business. And of course it is crucial to reach new markets.

It is not the speed of the machine, it’s the speed of the business decisions that is critical here. If you’re not in touch, you’re out of touch with the vital source of business growth: new customers at low cost.

Australia is simply not competitive in providing a home business network backbone with access to fast broadband, yet these services are readily available to the big end of town. And if someone could stop Skype dropping out, this home business operator is willing to donate free books to charity.

Dial-up is already becoming a thing of the past. Technology savvy home businesses operators are using fixed wireless in the home, xDSL or cable modems and communicating with mates on the new 3G mobile phone network to throttle down the cost of staying in touch. With the costs of constant wireless still prohibitive for most home businesses, affordability is a key concern and time lost due to viruses or technology hiccups a major worry.

Our Australian broadband download speeds are slow compared to our Asian neighbours and the rest of the world and this is why home business should be interested in the internet access upgrade debate. We are ranked 25 th by the World Economic Forum on broadband availability and 15 th on our network readiness (source: country rankings 2006/2007, www.weforum.org ).


Dr Jane Shelton not only runs a business from home but is doing business research into people working from home. She is managing director of Marshall Place Associates, Melbourne’s independent think tank, and CEO (honourary) for ‘Life. Be in it.’ International. Shelton has a Doctorate in Business Administration at the Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship (AGSE) at Swinburne University of Technology after a Master of Arts in Public Policy at Melbourne University and a Bachelor of Business in banking and finance at Monash University.

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