Question to Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Mr Alex White, TD)

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the supports available to businesses to develop innovative websites to enable growth of online trade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer.

For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 10th December, 2014.

REPLY

Digital adoption by businesses is a priority for Government. It is estimated that Irish consumers spend more than €6bn online annually and this figure is set to almost double by 2020. With up to 70% of Ireland’s annual online spend currently going overseas, targeting Irish businesses for online trading is a key jobs and economic imperative. In Ireland today, however, less than 1 in 4 small businesses are selling to customers online.

To address this challenge, my Department launched a national Trading Online Voucher Scheme in July last, following a pilot in the Dublin area. This is a key initiative under the Government’s National Digital Strategy and is included in the Action Plan for Jobs. Working in partnership with Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Office network, the Scheme offers financial assistance of up to €2,500 to small and micro businesses to develop their online trading capability. It aims to get 2,000 small businesses trading online by the end of 2015, as well as catalysing action from other small and medium sized enterprises. The Scheme has the capacity to bring new sustainable Irish jobs to all parts of Ireland.

Early indications from the Dublin pilot were positive, with companies saying they had experienced or envisaged more sales and were expecting to recruit as a result. More information on this scheme can be found on my Department’s website at www.dcenr.gov.ie/nds and on the websites of each Local Enterprise Office.

Other initiatives include the WebActivate programme which is operated by the Digital Skills Academy, based at the Digital Hub. It assists Irish businesses to develop their online presence and open themselves up to the advantages of the internet, such as business efficiencies, and access to global markets. The IE Domain Registry also operates the Optimise Fund to assist small businesses to optimise their websites using professional consultancy, experience and insight that might otherwise be beyond their budgets or resources.