Small business minister says most business owners are too old to ‘get’ the Net

Federal small business minister Nick Sherry believes most Australian business owners are 45 or older and therefore aren’t comfortable using technology.

“When I went to school, there were no computers,” the Senator said at yesterday’s launch of Telstra’s new packages for small business.

Other business owners, he said, have probably had the same experience and this explains low adoption rates of technology.

Sherry went on to point out that the Federal government is trying to help businesses with programs like Winning Business Online.

But the Minister’s comments merit some further attention, if only because not having been taught computers in the classroom is surely not a massive barrier to education later in life.

Computers in the home are surely at least as important. And let’s not forget that computers have become rather easier to use over the years.

It’s also worth considering the sources of data on small business technology adoption.

Lots of suppliers to the small business community point out that a low proportion of small businesses have websites.

When suppliers make this assertion, My Business believes they ignore the true disposition of small business, as described in the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits.

That data shows that of the 1.9 million small businesses in Australia, 1.1 million are non-employing businesses. Do those self-employed people and family businesses really need a website or domain name?

We believe many do very well without them.

That’s not to say that many small businesses couldn’t do more online, or use various online tools to help them grow.

Minister Sherry himself shows how: during his talk yesterday he explained that he has just mastered adding new appointments to his diary on his BlackBerry, without the help of his diary secretary!

With leadership like that, small business will surely thrive online.

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