Businesses that adopt technology tend to be more productive, competitive, and resilient.
Many businesses have invested considerable time and money into new technology in recent years through necessity and rapidly changing consumer habits, however small businesses are struggling to keep up with larger businesses in the digital world. This is especially true for rural and traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. Larger, urban businesses have more access to the resources, skills, and bandwidth they need.
Claudia Dessanti, Senior Manager of Policy at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) took the time to thoroughly research the subject with a new report titled Broken Links: Driving Technology Adoption within Ontario’s Small Businesses.
The right tools can help businesses improve productivity, improve customer engagement, reach new markets, and grow. In a time when many employers are having to make due with less-than-ideal staffing levels, technology can improve efficiency and allow them to make do with less.
Examples of digital technologies commonly used by small businesses include:
• E-commerce websites/platforms
• Digital payments systems
• Cloud computing services
• Search engine optimization
• Project management software
• Inventory management software
• Digital collaboration tools
When surveyed by the OCC, small businesses across Ontario identified three main barriers to digital adoption:
• Capital costs required - 51%
• Access to technically skilled workers - 42%
• Broadband connectivity - 35%
The Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce has been pushing to reduce these barriers over the years. We are currently running the local Digital Main Street program which includes free access to local experts on our Digital Service Squad. They are available to help businesses work through their digital challenges and create plans to help get where they want to be. They are also able to help businesses apply for grants, including the Digital Transformation Grant and Canada Digital Adoption Program. For more details on this, reach out to Clarance D’Silva at email@example.com.
In her report, Dessanti lays out nine key recommendations:
Access to Resources:
1. Broaden eligibility for technology adoption programs to include non-profit organizations.
2. Make it easier for small businesses to access digitization supports.
3. Improve access to private capital and credit for small businesses.
Access to Skills
4. Develop and scale successful digital training programs for small business owners and employees.
5. Build more inclusive digital training programs.
6. Expand work-integrated learning programs and incentivize smaller employers to participate in them.
7. Continue to prioritize and accelerate the rollout of broadband across Ontario.
8. Address inefficiencies and barriers to private sector broadband investments.
9. Explore “dig once” strategies, future-proofing of digital infrastructure, and opportunities for better data sharing around broadband gaps.
Progress is being made on the broadband portfolio. We recently hosted federal Rural Economic Development Minister Gudie Hutchings for an announcement of $56 million in funding toward local broadband internet projects. The announcement is part of a plan to provide proper high-speed internet to everyone in Ontario by the end of 2025.
We have also been active with other chambers and the OCC on issues like “dig once” policies, digital training programs, and funding.
As a Chamber, we will keep advocating for supports for business to invest in technology, developing a local workforce with the technology skills we need, and increasing internet access.