As recognition of the positive economic impact that broadband can have grows, we’re seeing more and more communities organizing to ensure they have good broadband connectivity and that they make the most of that connectivity through economic development and broadband adoption efforts. But amid all this activity, there’s one area that may get overlooked: Small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) may need some help in learning how to maximize broadband capabilities.
Broadband and Economic Development
While broadband has tremendous upside, there is also a downside for businesses that don’t recognize the power of broadband and the Internet.
The list of businesses that have been severely impacted by broadband and the Internet continues to grow. Photography, music, and publishing are just a few examples.
In all of those examples, the product itself was transformed through technology.
But increasingly there are examples of businesses where the product remained much the same but the business was transformed through broadband and Internet tools. One example is how Red Box – in combination with over-the-top video offerings such as Netflix – has virtually obsoleted traditional video stores. Or how about the online ordering tools offered by large pizza chains that threaten to drive smaller pizzerias lacking those tools out of business?
Strategic Networks Group, a consulting firm focused on helping businesses and communities maximize broadband benefits, summed it up in a recent blog post. “Larger businesses are utilizing the Internet faster and more effectively than their smaller counterparts.”
The author argues that small businesses sometimes don’t understand the benefits of new Internet practices and even when they do understand, they often are “stretched too thin to choose and implement the right solution(s).” The solution, according to the author, is group or one-on-one training.
Of course, SNG is bound to say that because that’s the organization’s specialty. Nevertheless, what they say makes sense. Considering the time and money that’s been invested in broadband adoption, also known as digital literacy, programs targeting consumers, wouldn’t it make sense to also consider the digital literacy needs of small businesses?
Internet-or broadband-enabled jobs comprised 39.7% of total jobs created between 2013 and 2015, up from 25.5% in 2010-2012, according to SNG. For businesses with fewer than 20 employees, that percentage was 38.2%.
With the right broadband and Internet tools, small businesses could create even more jobs –and better retain those they already have.
Shouldn’t broadband adoption and training for those businesses be part of communities’ broadband and economic development plans? Even if it’s just letting small companies know that organizations such as SNG exist, it would be a step in the right direction.