SWITCHED ON: Increasing business participation in the digital economy will increase regional prosperity and community well-being.OUR research into regional competitiveness seeks to identify the critical areas that Hunter businesses and planners must address in the next five to 10 years to ensure our region becomes a globally competitive economy.
Our research has shown that one of the most pressing needs for the Hunter is to become more engaged and connected to the global digital economy.
At the foundation’s June breakfast, CSIRO director of advanced manufacturing Dr Swee Mak identified the ‘‘virtual world’’ as one of the megatrends that will be relevant to all businesses.
The global digital economy is thriving as emerging technologies change the way we live and drive new opportunities for businesses to develop, through new product and service offerings, supply and distribution methods, and access to larger markets.
At our July breakfast, we focused on the Hunter’s digital economy and released our June survey data concerning business and consumer use of information and communication technologies (ICT).
It showed that Hunter consumers are following the national and global trend of buying online, with more than eight out of 10 Hunter internet users buying goods or services online, their most popular use of the internet.
Smartphones, with their ‘‘go-anywhere’’ capability, including web access and other services, have facilitated the use of converged communications. Mobile phones are increasingly being used by Hunter consumers for product search, online purchasing and paying bills.
As consumers move rapidly online, how well are Hunter businesses engaging with the digital economy?
Our June data shows that though 92per cent of Hunter businesses can access the internet – on a par with the most recently published national figure (93per cent) – just 57per cent of those had a dedicated website, lower than the national figure for small businesses (64per cent).
Of those using their website, 52per cent used it to advertise their goods and services but only 27per cent used it to take orders (compared with 30per cent nationally).
With websites playing a critical role in allowing businesses to engage in delivering online services and goods, what is preventing the Hunter’s small to medium enterprises from embracing an online market?
The most common reasons cited by business owners and operators for not using a dedicated website to advertise were a lack of staff time or resources (27per cent), lack of knowledge or expertise (23per cent), uncertainty over its benefits (22per cent), and concerns over costs (20per cent).
Alarmingly, however, when asked how they would like to improve their knowledge of ICT, more than one-third of Hunter businesses felt they did not need to improve their knowledge. Those who wanted to, indicated that they would like to know more about marketing via social networks (30per cent), developing a presence online (26per cent) and accepting online payments (20per cent).
At the foundation, we are working with regional stakeholders, including the Hunter DiGiT (Digital Industry Growth and Innovation Taskforce), to develop ways to address these barriers and to help our small businesses to engage with the burgeoning digital economy.
James Vidler, the president of DiGiT, part of a panel discussion at our July breakfast, said increasing our participation in the digital economy would not only increase our regional prosperity but could also improve community well-being by increasing access and reducing inequity of access to vital health and education services and entertainment.
It could improve our environmental sustainability by increasing teleworking, and developing smart public transport systems and digital logistics.
DiGiT’s mission, ‘‘By 2020, establish the Hunter as a leading digital regional economy with a global reputation’’, aligns closely with the foundation’s mission: ‘‘Future-proofing our region for generations to come’’.
A recent survey seeking industry and community input to guide Hunter DiGiT’s focus will help to determine which initiatives we pursue first to help the region maximise the opportunities and benefits associated with the digital economy.
At the foundation, we will continue to identify the needs and attitudes of regional businesses and community, and to monitor the success of their initiatives. We will provide insights that move the Hunter forward.
View the foundation’s digital economy infographic and watch a video to find out what our panelists had to say at hvrf苏州美甲美睫培训学校.au/futureproofing.
Anthea Bill is a senior research fellow at Hunter Research Foundation and took part in a recent panel discussion on the digital economy