Digital adoption could unlock 10bn turnover in rural micro businesses
Greater access toonline tools and services in Britain’s rural regions could be worth as much as 26.4bn to the economy, with micro business owners predicted to benefit most significantly from digital adoption.
According to research undertaken by Rural England and Scotland’s Rural College, commissioned by online auction site Amazon, micro business owners would see the greatest returns through engagement with ecommerce, access to superfast broadband and better delivery services. Annual business turnover for micro firms, the study claimed, could grow by 9.4bn per year.
Currently, the UK’s rural regions contribute 299bn to the economy each year, but business owners remain restricted due to a lack of joined up infrastructure and practical training opportunities.
Snapshot of a typical rural business
? Family-run and home-based
? Business owner over 55 years old
? Employ fewer than ten staff
? Less likely than an urban company to generate turnover above 50, 000
Technology has however already started to improve operations at rural businesses some 29 per cent of survey respondents said it had improved access to customers and suppliers, while one in four said digital adoption had improved data storage, security and flexibility at their company.
Meanwhile, some 80 per cent were using ecommerce to trade overseas, with retail and the food sector the greatest rural exporters.
When asked of their biggest constraints, over half admitted skills-related obstacles had created barriers to growth, while one in five admitted they struggled to recruit staff with strong digital skills.
Commenting on the findings, Brian Wilson, chair of directors at Rural England, recognised that rural business owners were already ‘strong digital adopters, but warned of barriers to going further.
their ability to go digital has been held back by constraints which have included connectivity but also extend to a lack of skills, training and resources, he explained.
to help address these constraints and boost rural economic productivity, we believe there are some straight forward quick wins, which if delivered locally, nationally and UK-wide, could have a significant and positive impact on the quality of life for rural communities and the UK economy as a whole.
Welcoming the report, government environment secretary Michael Gove praised the value of ecommerce to the rural economy.
“The internet has the potential to ensure the countryside can flourish in a way that combines preserving the environment with economic dynamism. Digital technology can open opportunities, build skills and connect rural businesses to global markets, ” Gove said.
Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.
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