Investing in digital skills could boost GDP by €9.5 billion, report says

“Significant” national investment in digital skills could boost Ireland’s gross domestic product (GDP) by €9.5 billion over the next three years, according to a new report from Google.

Despite a major push towards digital transformation over the past two years, the majority of Irish SMEs said they were less than halfway through their digital journey, while only 55% said they had their own website, which which is significantly lower than the EU average.

But 57% said meeting goals to improve their digital capabilities would give the business a boost, helping them grow faster and become more profitable. Increasing digital skills could also have a significant benefit for employees, with 28% of business leaders saying an improvement in this area could allow them to increase wages and salaries.

The survey of 1,000 small and medium-sized business leaders across Ireland was carried out by Amarach and looked at Irish businesses’ needs, ambitions and plans for digital capabilities.

The research also revealed a knowledge gap on how best to proceed, with half of companies saying they lacked the basic knowledge to identify the digital skills they needed to prioritize and invest.

Challenges

Businesses also reported difficulty recruiting qualified staff, with just over a quarter of SMEs saying their staff had the necessary skills in basic digital capabilities, and 41% of SMEs had no employees. responsible for developing digital skills.

Only 11% said they felt their staff had the skills needed to successfully adopt and use new technologies, while only 18% of SMEs use KYC tools and just over half own or use social media and video platforms.

“The timing of the release of this report could not be more important, the decisions that business leaders and political stakeholders will make about digital capabilities in the months and years to come will have profound implications for productivity and long-term profitability of the SME sector, and for sustainable economic growth over the remainder of the decade,” said Alice Mansergh, director of small businesses at Google. “Google, for its part, will use these findings to help shaping the courses we offer through the Grow with Google initiative, which helps train people in key digital skills that will empower them to seize new business and business opportunities.”

Covid investment

Covid has also helped boost investment in digital skills, with 64% of Irish SMEs citing the pandemic as an incentive to invest more, and more than three-quarters saying digital tools are more useful to their business than they are. were before Covid-19 blows.

Digital adoption was highest in Dublin, according to the report, where 45% of businesses said they were more than halfway through their digital journey, compared to 32% of regional businesses based in the Midlands.

Some differences were also observed in the gender divide, with female decision-makers in SMEs being more likely to use social media platforms, at 55% compared to 51% of men, and females being more likely to consider creating of digital content as a top priority for developing digital skills.

But only 58% of female leaders and decision-makers said their organization was more than halfway through its digital journey, compared to 65% of male leaders.

“Small and medium-sized businesses remain the backbone of the Irish economy; representing 99 percent of active businesses and 70 percent of employment. Enterprise Ireland and Local Enterprise Offices are committed to supporting these businesses on their digitization journey, investing in the capabilities that will help them succeed internationally,” said Leo Clancy, CEO of Enterprise Ireland. “For successful companies, digitalization is not an option, it is a crucial advantage that allows them to compete and win.”

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