The Australian Broadband Advisory Council has urged the small business sector, which makes up 98 per cent of all business in Australia, to dramatically lift its online presence as this is where most of its customers are.
Its first report since being formed in July confirms that while COVID has accelerated an already dramatic shift to digital, small business is only half as likely to use the internet to connect with customers and suppliers as larger businesses.
“Many small businesses would benefit from investing in technology,” the council’s report, titled Riding the Digital Wave, states.
“However, current investment is an average spend of $5000 a year on technology – representing less than 1 per cent of revenue.
The Morrison Government established the council to advise it on ways to maximise the economic benefits of the NBN and the rollout of 5G mobile technology and look for any financial or cultural barriers preventing the take up of the NBN or 5G.
The NBN is now available to nearly 12 million homes and businesses in Australia.
Chaired by former Telstra executive Deena Shiff, the council also counts Agforce president Georgie Somerset, Victorian Education and Research Network director Bronte Adams and television executive Scott Lorson among its members.
The report said the pandemic had “brought forward” 10 years’ worth of data consumption in Australia, with the use of mobile phones, PCs and Smart TVs increasing this year. It also found that nearly 30 per cent of Australian households now use both fixed and mobile networks to access the internet, up from just 5 per cent in 2017.
But while it cited several examples of large businesses taking advantage of his rend, the report warned small businesses “have the most to do” to improve their competitiveness n a world that has embraced digital technologies.
It said governments needed to help small businesses access training in digital technologies, suggesting that the apprenticeship and traineeship system could be improve to produce more staff with broader digital skills than simple IT support.
The council will now set up expert working groups to examine in detail industry sectors such as agriculture and health to identify barriers to digitisation.
On agriculture, it said the economic potential of embracing digital technologies has yet to be fully realised.
While the shift from offline to online activity during the pandemic had little effect on some sectors of the agriculture industry “supply chains were heavily impacted and access to itinerant workforce was restricted”.
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