SMBs highlight efficiency from broadband

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Faster connections are needed all round

Small businesses see improvements in operational efficiency as the largest benefit from higher broadband speeds, according to research carried out for a new report on broadband availability.

Out of 500 small and midsized businesses questioned, 76% flagged up efficiency as a prime benefit, followed by 60% for better staff productivity and 58% for improving the customer experience.

Other factors with significant scores were supporting a move to cloud services and cutting costs (both 39%), increasing the customer base (34%) and improving staff morale (27%).

Ipsos MORI carried out the research on behalf of the Policy Exchange as part of the latter's newly published report, The Superfast and the Furious: Priorities for the future of UK broadband policy.

It also showed that only a minority believe that enough is being done to help businesses such as their own get access to fast and reliable broadband: 29% said industry was doing enough, 21% said so for central government and 16% for local government.

The findings prompted the Policy Exchange to suggest that the government should place more of its focus for digital engagement on the capabilities of small business, rather than concentrate on getting as many as possible of the public online.

This was also reflected in another element of survey, in which 61% of SMBs expressed a preference for a selective approach to providing high speed connections rather than the government's emphasis on providing for all. The trend was more pronounced for those from urban areas, with a figure of 69%, while that for rural areas was 55%.

It also confirmed that most businesses have a web presence, with 82% providing for email contact and 79% having a website providing information, but far fewer transact online. Just 51% provide online contact forms and barely more than a third can handle applications, payments or booking online.

Graham Walker, chief executive officer of Go ON UK, the UK's Digital Skills Alliance, said: "The UK has strong digital foundations, but is not maximising the full economic and social benefits offered by digitisation. To reap benefits for all in the UK, we need universal broadband access and greater investment in the digital skills and capabilities of individuals and businesses."

The report defines broadband as delivering a bandwidth of 2Mbps and superfast as 24Mbps. It also deals with consumer attitudes through a survey of 2,000 members of the public.