​Canberra to give businesses AU$20K digital transformation makeover

Funding will come by way of hardware, software, and digital skills training.

The federal government has announced a digital transformation initiative aimed at bringing Australian businesses into the 21st Century, offering up equipment and access to mentorship to make it happen.

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A statement from Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education Michaelia Cash explains the nationwide mentoring program will help small business owners transform and grow their business, through improving digital capability.

According to Cash, the Small Business Digital Champions Project will "create relatable, real-time case studies to inspire and inform small business owners across Australia about how to go digital".

Starting early next year, 100 small businesses will be chosen to receive a digital transformation valued at up to AU$20,000. The funding will be delivered via hardware, software, and digital skills training.

15 of the 100 businesses will additionally be selected to become a "Digital Champion" that will require them to undergo the transformation in the public spotlight, with the help from Larry Kestelman, who was the founder of Vocus-owned Dodo Internet; Dr Sam Prince who founded fast food chain Zambrero, aid organisation One Disease, and medical group Next Practice; and Michelle Bridges, who is a reality television personal trainer.

"Small businesses across the country will be able to follow the 12 month digital transformation of the Digital Champions, learning as they learn, and gaining the confidence and understanding they need to make these tools work for them, and their own business," Cash's statement explained.

Funding will also be made available for industry associations to engage a "Trusted Digital Adviser to provide sector specific advice to their membership across Australia including their relevant Digital Champion".

Facebook and Google are among the corporate partners for the Digital Champions element.

Australia is a nation of small business operators -- defined by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman as a business employing less than 20 employees, and by the Australian Taxation Office as businesses turning over below AU$10 million.

As of July 2017, 97 percent of business in Australia were small businesses employing less than 20 employees -- that is 2.1 million individuals employed by a small business.

"Research from Deloitte found that small and medium enterprises with higher levels of digital engagement are 50 percent more likely to be growing revenue, eight times more likely to be creating jobs, seven times more likely to be exporting or engaging in new markets, and 14 times more likely to be innovating new products and services," Cash said.

The Small Business Digital Champions Project is part of the Australian Government's Helping Small Business Grow package.

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