The Government supports this recommendation and will continue to identify channels to ensure small businesses have the knowledge to successfully participate in the digital economy. As described in the Government’s December 2018 Australia’s Tech Future strategy, a range of activities already support a whole-of-Government agenda to deliver a strong, safe and inclusive digital economy. Key initiatives relevant to the recommendation are set out below.
Empowering business to go digital
In 2017 the then Treasurer, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, established the Small Business Digital Taskforce, headed by Mr Mark Bouris, to better understand what is holding back small businesses from adopting digital technologies, and to increase the awareness among small business of the benefits of ‘going digital’. The taskforce’s final report and recommendations are available on the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science website at https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/small-business-digital-taskforce-report-to-government.
The Government responded to the Taskforce recommendations in December 2018. Acknowledging the Taskforce’s key recommendation to provide a central, national point for information and advice on digital opportunities for small business, the Government will support the establishment of a non‑governmental organisation (NGO) to build and enhance small business digital awareness and capability.
Digital Champions Project
As mentioned in the response to Recommendation 1, the Small Business Digital Champions project currently being implemented provides 100 Australian small businesses with a comprehensive digital transformation for their business. These businesses will receive up to $18,500 in digital support, and additional products and services from corporate partners. Information on the corporate partners is available at https://www.employment.gov.au/digital-champions#partners. The journeys of the Digital Champions will be featured in online interactive case studies that will provide the small business community with real-life insights into the business benefits of adopting digital technology.
As part of Digital Champions project, and to support small businesses engage with digital technology more broadly, 15 industry associations will receive $100,000 over two years to provide sector‑specific advice to their small business members. Over the two years, the Industry Associations are required to undertake, coordinate and deliver services which are tailored to their industry and are up-to-date with digital and online best practice. Services can be delivered through a combination of channels and formats including face-to-face and remote/online delivery methods. The industry associations will also promote and showcase the Digital Champions project.
SelfStart online hub
The SelfStart online hub is designed as a starting point for people who wish to explore ideas and develop them into a successful business. SelfStart connects people to exiting services and provides targeted information to assist them to start a business. SelfStart contains information on 10 core topics, including ‘Going Digital—getting your business online’. The online hub includes case studies, articles and factsheets to help people set-up their business online. The SelfStart online hub is available at http://jobsearch.gov.au/selfstart.
The D61+ Expert Connect project https://expertconnect.global/ is an online platform designed to help Australian businesses find experts within universities and research organisations to enable collaboration. Research and development is a key driver of innovative activity. However, the costs associated with R&D infrastructure can be beyond the reach of many small businesses. The Expert Connect platform and the associated Innovation Challenges helps businesses to leverage the high quality research that is being conducted within universities and research organisations.
The Entrepreneurs’ Programme is an Australian Government initiative to improve business competitiveness and productivity under the National Innovation and Science Agenda. The Entrepreneurs’ Programme delivers services and grants through four elements: Accelerating Commercialisation; Business Management; Innovation Connections; and Incubator Support. A national network of more than 130 experienced business advisers and facilitators provides flexible and tailored advice and support. Businesses seeking targeted assistance and grants are subject to eligibility criteria.
The Entrepreneurs’ Programme launched the new ICT service, bDigital, under the Business Management element on 1 August 2018. The aim of the bDigital service is to assist clients to implement key digital actions in their business. The bDigital service is delivered by a dedicated team of Digital Solutions Advisers who assist clients in the following key areas:
- Increase the number of digital initiatives being undertaken by clients.
- Improve business knowledge and confidence with digital.
- Provide specialist support services to ensure that businesses implement key digital recommendations.
Innovation Connections helps small and medium businesses to engage with researchers and to innovate. It provides access to independent and experienced innovation facilitators who assess the research and innovation needs of business. These facilitators work with businesses to identify relevant sources of technical and knowledge expertise and, where relevant, broker research relationships with publicly funded research organisations.
The Australian Government is committed to ensuring the small business community continues to prosper in a world that is now highly dependent upon the internet. This is in part why the Government launched the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC). The ACSC is the Australian Government’s single point of co-ordination and accountability, and the public interface for cyber security matters for all Australians including government, industry, critical infrastructure operators, business and individuals.
Through the Stay Smart Online program the ACSC educates and informs Australians, including small business owners and operators, to help them understand the benefits of good cyber security practice and how to better protect their business and customers from cyber threats. The program provides information and advice for small business, to reduce the risk of cyber security threats such as software vulnerabilities, online scams, malicious activities and risky online behaviours.