Crossing the Digital Divide: How Policy Makers Can Help Entrepreneurs Grow Online

Last Friday, I posed the question, are Gen X entrepreneurs missing the mark on social media? The stats I presented, based on CFIB’s latest research, Embracing technology in a digital age, appear to show that there certainly is a digital divide. Age of business, however is not the only factor. Larger rather than smaller firms seem to more eagerly embrace technologies that they believe will keep them competitive and agile.

Believe it or not, according to CFIB research, 34% of small business owners are still not using any kind of social media at all, and only 48% of those whose business has been running for 10 years or more view the ubiquitous technology as important to their operations.

While this might seem like a Gen Xer’s stubborn refusal to more fully engage with the digital world, there are some practical reasons for this apprehension. According to the survey, more established small businesses simply can’t prioritize social media on account of it being too time-consuming, too costly and too difficult to keep up with and fully understand.

With that in mind, here are a few ideas the Canadian Federation of Independent Business recommends policy makers think about implementing to help these older firms connect with the next generation of entrepreneurs:

  1. Make it easier to adopt digital technologies by encouraging the development of simple, cost effective, “off-the-shelf” digital tools for small businesses: CFIB already offers its members such services for web development (Bark Builder) and email marketing (CyberImpact) at discounted prices.
  2. Introduce a “Digital Technology Deduction”: Allow claims up to $100,000 per year spent on new equipment or technology, in the year of purchase.
  3. Reintroduce a 100 per cent Capital Cost Allowance (CCA) rate for technology purchases: This would spur new investments in new digital technologies and help drive innovation.
  4. Improve competitive options for high speed/wireless services: Require incumbents to provide competitors with wholesale access to Ethernet lines at fair prices, or allow foreign providers to access rural markets.
  5. Create an “innovations lens”: When implementing new regulations, policies and taxes, ensure these do not negatively impact a firm’s ability to innovate or adopt new technologies.
  6. Consider creating a website of digital tools to enhance digital literacy: Government could take the lead on creating a website that contains a database of tech guides and tools to develop digital skills that would help SMEs deal with daunting technology tasks quickly and easily.

By carrying through on some or all of these ideas, the government can help a generation of business owners who didn’t grow up with a smartphone in their hands, but are still a vibrant part of the entrepreneurial community, overcome their concerns and begin to see the massive benefits derived from creating an effective and indelible presence on social media.

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John Studd

With over 15 years of experience in communications, John has spent most of his career in Europe and Asia working with a long list of clients on a large number of projects. He particularly likes working on behalf of small- and medium-sized enterprises in his present role as Media Writer for the Canadian Federation Independent Business (CFIB). He’s also been a small business person himself, establishing a rather successful translation company in Prague that in its heyday employed three teams of translators.

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