Victoria launches IT education program in SME productivity blitz

A new program launched by the Victorian government is aiming to assist in generating a potential AU$3.5 billion productivity boost by improving the information and communications technology skills among small and medium-sized business owners.

A new government program aimed at helping small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) tap into a potential AU$3.5 billion worth of productivity improvements through information and communications technology (ICT) has been launched in Victoria.

The state's Minister for Technology Gordon Rich-Phillips announced the new program on October 30, saying that the government wants to help close the state's IT skills gap and provide awareness of how technology could be used for business strategy and achieving objectives.

"We know that many SMEs experience barriers to uptake ICT, including lack of time, costs, inadequate skills, and even lack of awareness of benefits of ICT in their business," said Rich-Phillips in a statement. "As a result, few SMEs have developed a digital business strategy, and they fail to uptake ICT tools such as websites, social media, and data analytics.

"The initial trial showed SMEs were most interested in topics such as search engine optimisation, online customer experience, and how to use social media to extend their business opportunities," he said. "The topics for the new program will include strategic planning, understanding your customer, generating brand awareness, and e-commerce. We are particularly encouraging business owners in rural Victoria to register."

The program, dubbed Decoding Digital, was formulated in response to the findings of a Deloitte Access Economics report, Improving the Productivity of Victoria's SMEs (2014), and will provide online core technology skills training to SMEs across Victoria to in order to enable them to upgrade their business capabilities.

The Deloitte report, which was commissioned by the Victorian Department of State Development, Business and Innovation, estimated that productivity improvements by Victorian SMEs through the adoption of new IT technologies could be worth around AU$300 million in the first year, and AU$3.5 billion over five years.

The government said it conducted a successful online trial from May to June 2014, with over 400 SMEs as participants across all industry groups, and many based in regional Victoria.

The program will commence in February 2015, and will deliver four series of training sessions over the next two years.

The new program is among a series of IT-related initiated by the Victorian government, with Rich-Phillips this week announcing an agreement with iiNet to build a AU$6.7 million public Wi-Fi network in Melbourne, Ballarat, and Bendigo.

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