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Is Your Business Connected?
1 October 2001


Small, and 'micro' businesses in the Highlands and Islands are falling behind the rest of Scotland in their uptake and awareness of e-commerce and its benefits. These are the findings of a survey carried out across the Highlands and Islands Enterprise area.

In Scotland as a whole 41 per cent of 'micro' businesses - those with less than 10 employees - now have a marketing website- in the Highlands and Islands the figure is 30 per cent. 86 per cent of Scottish businesses use email - the corresponding figure in the north is 72 per cent, and twice as many Highland companies (16 per cent) have 'no intention' of adopting any e-businesses solution as is the case in Scotland as a whole (8 per cent).

In a bid to combat this situation development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has been striving to boost awareness and use of e-commerce amongst local businesses and are about to take the latest step in this campaign. A series of events is being organised throughout the Highlands and Islands over the next few months aimed at giving local companies an opportunity to see at first hand the benefits they might gain from adopting new technology or developing and improving on what they are already doing. The first events will be held in the Western Isles next week, in Stornoway on Wednesday the 10th and in Benbecula on Thursday the 11th, with the rest being held in a rolling programme reaching into the new year.

Each 'HIE Online E-vent' will include presentations by Highlands and Islands companies who have already adopted some form of e-business technique alongside suppliers from the area who will demonstrate some of the technology available. There will be a choice of seminars targeted at people with different levels of knowledge, experience or technical awareness. This means that there will be something of relevance for everyone irrespective of where their company is on the e-business 'ladder'. The events will also be backed up in the longer term by the E-business advisers in each Local Enterprise Company area who will be able to offer continued support to businesses in their own areas. It is hoped the events, which are being staged at a cost of #38,000 will attract as many as 700 small businesses from all parts of the Highlands and Islands.

The events programme also coincide with the launch of a new e-business resource - a website where people will be able to source a comprehensive range of information on online trading and e-business - www.hieonline.org. It will include details of forthcoming events in each Local Enterprise Company area.
The benefits of adopting an e-business approach can be substantial. At a basic level using email can improve communication and efficiency, marketing websites can raise awareness of a company's products worldwide and a fully-fledged on-line trading site allows this potential market to be properly exploited.
HIE's e-business mentor Maarten de Vries said: "It's vital that all companies in the Highlands and Islands at least consider how they could use the range of new technology available to them - this applies irrespective of company size - the message is 'you don't have to be big to benefit', even 'micro-businesses' can find something to build on.

"The Highlands and Islands are continually having to strive to compete with other areas, and the statistics in our study show that we are in danger of falling behind as far as e-commerce is concerned. This is particularly worrying because, as a rural and dispersed area and economy, we have more to gain than other regions by embracing these new technologies - and more to lose if we don't."

Find out More at HIE Event in your area -
The full list of events/dates is as follows:
 Stornoway (Lews Castle College - 10th October);
 Benbecula (Lionacleit School - 11th October);
 Dingwall (Tulloch Castle - 17th October);
Ullapool (Ceilidh Place - 18th October);
Brora (Links Hotel - 31st October);
Thurso (New Weigh Inn - 1st November);
Inverness (The Green House - 6th November);
Portree (Aros centre - 29th November);
Fort William (Lochaber College - 30th January);
Acharacle (Resource Centre - 31st January);
Kirkwall (Picaquoy Centre - 12th February);
erwick (Isleburgh Community Centre- 14th February);
Elgin (Eight Acres Hotel - 19th February);
Oban (Royal Hotel - 25th February);
Campbeltown (Ardshiel Hotel - 26th February);
Islay (Machrie Hotel - 28th February)