Australian SMEs in the digital economy

Internet Consumers Australia
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Given their significant impact on the economy, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) stand to play a pivotal role as both consumers of communications services and facilitators of the digital economy.

Summary: Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are big players in the Australian economy, estimated to account for 69 per cent of the total Australian workforce and 57 per cent of total business income during 2011–12. SMEs are categorised as businesses with fewer than 200 employees—with small businesses employing fewer than 20 staff, and medium-sized businesses 20 to 199 staff. This research report shows how, given their significant impact on the economy, SMEs stand to play a pivotal role as both consumers of communications services and facilitators of the digital economy. They will play this role through online service delivery and the application of digital communications to their business processes. SMEs, like household consumers, are using multiple communications services, with many already active players in the emerging digital economy.

As key drivers of the digital economy, SMEs:

  • Are more likely to diversify their communications services than substitute one for another—94 per cent have retained their fixed-line telephone but also mix and match a range of communications services including mobile phone calls, VoIP services, email and fax.
  • Are generally satisfied with their internet service—71 per cent are either satisfied or very satisfied with their service, with the top four components being service reliability, data speed, billing information and customer service.
  • Use multiple devices to go online for everyday business—small businesses used an average of two devices while medium-sized businesses used three or more devices.
  • Are more likely to undertake multiple activities online—50 per cent of connected SMEs performed seven or more types of online activities.
  • Are exploring how the digital economy can facilitate new ways of doing business—18 per cent have developed mobile-optimised websites; 26 per cent use social networking channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, for marketing; 39 per cent promote a flexible workforce by allowing staff to telework; and 47 per cent use a cloud computing service.
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