As part of our role on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Council for Digital Inclusion, Lloyds Banking Group is leading a Taskforce group to specifically increase the digital skills of small businesses and charities in the UK. The Taskforce was set up following an audit by the Digital Inclusion Delivery board that identified a lack of digital skills provisions available.
The group is made up of key cross sector leaders who will pool resources, create partnerships across sectors and devise initiatives to help reduce the gap in basic digital skills for small businesses and charities.
Do it Digital is a key member of the Taskforce, and as an independent, not-for-profit campaign that looks to highlight resources around the UK online and off, they help small businesses take the next step in digital, whatever their current level of skill and engagement.
We caught up with Michelle Ovens MBE, small business enterprise specialist and Director of Do It Digital, to ask her about the huge opportunity for small businesses in the UK to get online, and their plans to help one million small businesses in 2017.
Michelle, tell us a little about why digital is important for small businesses and charities.
Research from Lloyds Banking Group’s Business Digital Index highlights the huge number of small businesses and charities that are not engaging with digital, and scarily have no intention of investing in digital this year. How is this possible when it seems our every thought and action is reflected somewhere on line? Yet it seems that in the melee of digital noise, small businesses are being lost in the crowd.
They are a key part of both our economy and our culture. When we talk about the 5.5 million small businesses in the UK, employing 16 million people, we are not talking in the abstract – we mean the one man bands who run everything from manufacturing, to marketing, from communications to finance; we mean the micro businesses with less than ten staff who are multi-taskers at their core; and we mean small family businesses, growing businesses, manufacturing, retail, services and trades.
When small businesses are successful, they employ more people, give more back to their local communities, drive innovation in the economy and encourage this in others.
What is increasingly clear is that they have a huge opportunity ahead of them – the tangible financial opportunity offered by greater digital skills and engagement is phenomenal. To realise this potential, small businesses need our help.
What are you doing to help improve the digital skills of small businesses?
In 2017, Do It Digital along with many organisations across the UK are going to work with these small businesses to achieve more – not just for themselves, but for their communities and the economy as a whole. Whether it is a website, trading on a platform or beefing up their social media, small businesses can benefit significantly on their bottom line if we got them all fully on board.
This is not just about trading in the domestic market. The best way to get small businesses exporting is by getting them to excel online. Most are not going to get on a plane to meet customers – they need a cheaper and more accessible way to do that. Digital is surely the silver bullet in driving this huge export opportunity.
To reach Do It Digital’s target for helping one million small businesses in 2017, every part of the economy needs to work together. Stepping up to this challenge are big businesses with huge reach, membership organisations, charities and not for profits; and the government Small Business Taskforce, led by Lloyds Banking Group.
We need to turn up the volume on what is available for small businesses, and we need to drive them to take up that help. Small businesses are time poor, often on a tight budget and not without fears around the risks of digital, whether that be cyber security, data sharing or brand exposure. We need to reassure and encourage them to overcome these barriers.
Do It Digital is asking the UK to make a pledge to up its game in helping small business digital engagement in 2017. If we all make a step change, in whatever way is relevant to each of us, we can make a significant overall difference. This commitment can be training in digital tools or skills, increasing access via new website or trading platforms, or on-going mentoring to help small businesses maximize the potential of digital.
In addition, Do It Digital is organising a series of workshops and roadshows around the country.
They will be open to existing and aspiring small businesses and entrepreneurs. The series will be informal and participatory and each talk will be followed by a Q&A session. They will also be streamed live online and will include a Twitter Q&A for those who cannot make the talks in person. In each location on the roadshow, Do It Digital will also conduct some small business digital makeovers. If your business would like to participate in these makeovers, please send an email, letting Do It Digital know a little about your business and what you would like to get out of them.
Together we can make a real difference in small business fortunes – and where small businesses succeed, we all succeed.