UK small businesses and charities still not digital

Six stats from the Lloyds UK Business Digital Index 2016
Six stats from the Lloyds UK Business Digital Index 2016

For many of us who work in the digital industry, we take it for granted that we can use services such as Facebook, JustGiving charity fundraising and email services. According to a survey released this week by Lloyds Bank, only half of UK businesses and charities have the necessary digital skills to improve their business or fundraising.

The number of charities who accept online donations has doubled since 2015 – from 24% to 53%. But even those charities struggle with other digital skills such as email campaigns, using mobile correctly and other optimisation. And back to the figure of 53% of charities accept online donations – this highlights how 47% do not.

The problem is deep rooted – one of the figures that jumped out of the 2016 report to me was that 21% of charities still feel digital skills are not relevant to our organisation (page 41).

Sole traders are in a similar position. They are time poor, and it’s more important to be earning money than learning digital skills. Ironically there are more and more digital services available to sole traders for invoice management, financial services and marketing, to make running the business more efficient.

This week, Lloyds held an event to launch their 2016 edition of the UK Business Digital Index. Among the speakers were Martha Lane Fox of LastMinute.com fame (she has now set up and runs Doteveryone, which helps various people in society to benefit from Internet technologies) and Rebecca Warwick, a small business owner from Manchester. Rebecca described that after some training, she was able to save between 5 and 6 hours a week by using digital services, helping improve her business and home life.

The phrase “Digital Divide” – i.e. those people with and without access to broadband, or mobile Internet – is used less and less now. In London and some other major UK cities we have code clubs, Internet beta programmes, fast broadband and so on – but you don’t need to travel that far outside London to experience intermittent mobile data connectivity or find homes that are unable to connect to broadband.

The Lloyds Bank report highlights many of the challenges which face small UK businesses and charities today – sales, marketing, fundraising, but there was acknowledgement at the event that businesses are starting to face new, harder digital challenges such as security.

Lloyds released the report as part of GetOnline week, and after the event, together with Google they were hosting face to face training sessions to help 100 charities.

A full version of the report can be downloaded from http://resources.lloydsbank.com/pdf/UK-Business-Digital-Index-2016.pdf.

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