It's official: small business is still scared of the internet

SMEs around the country don't quite share the nation's affinity for all things digital.

Australians love the internet. We lead the world in our illegal downloading of Game of Thrones. And our near 13 million active Facebook users rival only the US in terms of the amount of time we spend on the social network each day. 

But it seems small to medium-sized businesses around the country don’t quite share the nation’s affinity for all things digital. In fact, recent ABS data seems to indicate the opposite. Despite years of being told to tool up and go digital, they’re still scared of the internet.

It’s a rather odd fear. As the graph below shows, the vast majority of Australia’s businesses have internet access. 

Yet they don’t operate a website. 

Nor do they even try to run a social media account. 

It makes no sense. It’s been over a decade since the internet's rise in business and social media started gaining momentum.  How could Australia still be lagging behind?

“Small businesses tend to be established by individuals who specialise in an industry sector not technology, so they don't naturally apply technology to business opportunities,” Deloitte Digital lead partner Frank Farrell explains.

“They also don't have the budgets to get dedicated technology advice, so this holds back their ability to innovate.”

An earlier report from Deloitte offered an equally scathing assessment of Australia’s digital situation. It found that only 25 per cent of small businesses in Australia were using the internet effectively. But the study also found businesses those that were harnessing the internet generated around 20 per cent extra revenue than their digitally inept counterparts. Web-savvy businesses were also found to be reaping in on average $100,000 in extra revenue per employee.

READ MORE: Why small business needs to get smart about social media

There’s no shortage of companies trying to capitalise on this gap in the Australian economy -- for the right price, of course. For instance, Yellow Pages printer turned digital marketing company Sensis has now focused its new business around bringing companies online. Online search giant Google is also competing in this space. The government is also involved, offering free advice through its quite insightful digital business website.  

The good news is that the data is moving in the right direction; internet use among all businesses is gradually increasing overtime. But are we moving fast enough, and can anything be done to speed up the transition? These are the questions that the government will need to ask if it is truly keen on bolstering Australia’s emerging digital economy. 

Got a question? Let us know in the comments below or contact the reporter @HarrisonPolites on Twitter. He will reply after he has taught his parents how to use the internet.