Belfast Telegraph

Small businesses hailed for embracing digital skills

Small businesses in Scotland are leading the way when it comes to digital skills, according to a study.

The annual Bank of Scotland Business Digital Index assessed small firms in terms of five key skills needed to get the most out of being online.

It found fewer than a third of small businesses north of the border (30%) lack these basic skills, compared to the UK average of 38%. Only London (also at 30%) rivals Scotland in terms of this measure.

Experts said the lack of key digital skills is a primary barrier to doing more business online, with 15% of firms across the UK stating this is the main barrier, more than doubling since 2015.

The skills assessed for the current report were managing information, communicating, transacting, creating and problem solving.

The report, however, noted cyber security is rising in prominence as a reason for small businesses not to do more online.

Some 57% of Scottish firms said they still need to invest in cyber security, lower than the UK average of 69%.

Philip Grant, chair of the bank's Scottish Executive Committee, said: "It's pleasing to see that the Business Digital Index shows digital maturity is increasing for small businesses in Scotland, however, there are still too many without basic digital skills.

"It's clear that being online can open the doors to opportunities, as well as cost and time saving benefits.

"We must do more to encourage small businesses based in Scotland to invest in digital skills, allowing them to make the most out of being online and to reap the benefits."

Two thousand businesses and charities across the UK were surveyed, including 109 in Scotland. The study was developed along with Doteveryone and Accenture.

Meanwhile, a separate report has concluded that UK business confidence is rising fast on the back of an "upbeat" outlook for the UK economy.

The latest Business Trends Report by accountants and business advisers BDO LLP was published on Monday.

BDO's optimism index, which indicates how firms expect their order books to develop in the next six months, increased from 98 to 102.2 in December, above its long term trend.

Martin Gill, head of BDO in Scotland, said: "British businesses are feeling pretty confident at the moment, helped by the impact of the currency depreciation on export competitiveness.

"There's also a feeling out there that the world economy is picking up again as we go into 2017.

"Brexit may mean gloomy news in the press and, at times, chaos in government. But our business community is getting on with it on the basis that opportunities for growth are there to be grabbed."

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