SMEs must improve digital skills to drive forward economic recovery

8th September 2014

A lack of digital skills within Ireland’s small business sector could thwart the nation’s economic recovery, a new report has warned.
 
The study, released by the Digital Marketing Institute, also discussed a growing geographical divide with Dublin-based firms faring better than their regional neighbours.
 
Ian Dodson, director and co-founder at the Digital Marketing Institute, recognised the enormous opportunity for digital skills to drive Ireland’s economic recovery forward, but its latest study showed that 80 per cent of Irish professionals lack entry level competency in digital skills.
 
These skills were measured across a host of sectors including mobile and internet marketing and online strategy.
 
“As a nation, we need to invest more heavily in professional training, not just for new entrants, but at a senior level to ensure digital knowledge capital reaches across our organisations,” said Dodson.
 
“To compete [with European countries] we need to create a talent pool able to take advantage of the opportunities which sit right in front of us.”
 
Ireland’s digital economy is forecast to be worth €21.1bn by 2020, totalling 10 per cent of the nation’s GDP, creating a further 150,000 jobs. But the Digital Marketing Institute fears the country risks failing to reach these targets unless the correct skills are taught to SME owners and staff.
 
“Bricks and mortar businesses need to understand the digital channels in which consumers are interacting with their business just as much as those selling directly online,” added Dodson.
 
On a sector-by-sector basis, the industries with the strongest digital skills levels include hotel and leisure (47 per cent), while the lowest include retail (36 per cent) and food and beverage (30 per cent).
 
Ireland’s small businesses are amongst those that need to improve; accounting for 23 per cent of the country’s workforce despite having the weakest digital skills. Firms with 11 to 50 employees scored 25 per cent lower than medium-sized firms and 22 per cent less than start-up businesses.

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