The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows a 6 per cent growth in the number of companies with a website. But the biggest surprise is the number of businesses that still don't have one.
ABS statistics released last week show how many companies are embracing the internet. Most notably, businesses received orders totalling $189 billion in the 2010-11 financial year, 32 per cent up on a year before. But behind these promising figures lurks a startling fact: the majority of Australian businesses don't even have a website.
As you'd expect, big companies (employing 200 people or more) nearly all have their own place online (we won't make much of a fuss about the 2.7 per cent that don't). But a quarter of companies with 20-199 employees don't have any web presence. The issue is worse with micro businesses — only one third of them have a website.
What's going on? Every company has something to sell, surely; and they are losing out if they don't have a chance of appearing on a Google results page.
In case you are wondering who these web-shy companies are, more than half of them are in the retail trade. This means that there are 40,000 retailers in Australia eking out a living, but hidden from the view of those on the world wide web.
In fact, they are more likely to have bought stuff themselves on the internet than they are to have a website of their own. It's a trend that applies to many industry sectors. These companies are not ignorant to the benefits of the internet; 90 per cent of them have a broadband connection. They simply have chosen, for whatever reason, not to showcase their wares online.
Perhaps it falls in the too-hard (or too-expensive) basket. Or it's just not it in their DNA. Sadly, the ABS thinks that only one third of Australian businesses have introduced innovative activity (as defined by the Oslo manual); 6 per cent have tried to innovate and abandoned it.
Building a website is hardly what you'd call innovative these days, but these figures demonstrate a widespread lackadaisical attitude towards the internet and IT that must be hindering the productivity of Aussie businesses. I suspect that a large part of the problem is a lack of online expertise; which means that there's never been a better time to be a web developer.