Fire protection consultants, online bespoke jewellery retailers, some web designers and a smattering of builders, financial advisers and digital marketing consultants: The annual Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Conference currently being attended by some of the 123-reg team in Liverpool is an example of the diversity of the British economy. The fact that each and every one of them bore a smile and exuded positivity about their own companies and marker sectors – even in the current economic climate – is also an example of the tremendous entrepreneurial spirit that many experts predict will help the country eventually back into the black. The further fact that of the 100s of people this blogger spoke to on the first day, only one person did not have a website for their business – nor could that person be convince of the value of an online presence – is also an example of why the Digital Economy is so important to this country.
Tomorrow (Friday) sees both Prime Minister David Cameron and his minister Vince Cable address the Conference on political issues that affect the broad membership of the FSA. That very fact – as well as being a partial balance to the tabled lobbying motions voted on by conference attendees – also shows just how important the one-man bands, two-partner firms and small family-run outfits that make up much of the FSB Membership. Direct questions to such high profile politicians will be minimal but Saturday’s ‘Question Time’ like debate featuring previously submitted questions to a panel including MPs from across the political spectrum looks set to be a fitting finale. So we hope that given the findings from this slightly-conference weary blogger above, that one of the questions fired at the panel is that on the need for investment in the digital economy.
Here are 123-reg we like to think we encourage entrepreneurship and help businesses get online, yet beyond these Towers we see frustration after frustration of customers and would-be customers not able to enjoy the basic tool of online business, that of a high-speed internet connection. While at our HQ minutes from Heathrow and at our secure digital data-centre in the north of England we enjoy fast leased lines, we appreciate that some in more remote parts of the country are stilling using dial-up connections – and by necessity and not by choice.
The Digital Economy is important to the success of the country and now needs the appropriate investment from the government to ensure the growth of online business is not stifled by inadequate infrastructure. Recent moves to clamp down on broadband providers who fail to live up to their advertised speeds is welcome, but greater attention needs also to be paid to why those advertising speeds aren’t being met and why they are not nationwide, as we currently are already beginning to lag behind other nations across the globe in relation to high-speed internet. Without suitable investment quickly, the increase of connected devices will only serve to make that worse.
Whether that investment arrives or not, of course the positive minds and enthusiastic faces probably won’t dampen the spirits of those in membership of the FSB – what it may mean however is that the next generation of FSB members and entrepreneurs may not find the same enthusiasm to take a punt when the daily grind is worsened by constantly slow internet connections.
Do you agree digital infrastructure investment is essential to future economic success?