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Speech by Minister of State Seán Kyne at Retail Excellence Annual Ecommerce Conference

​Good morning ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to be here this morning. I’d like to thank David Campbell and Retail Excellence for welcoming me to their annual eCommerce Conference.

Digital is a disruptive force across all sectors bringing with it both challenges and opportunities. It is wave that has yet to reach some but for many including retail, it is already here. Ecommerce sales in Ireland are forecast to be at €6.76 billion this year. According to the report from eCommerce Europe shared with you today, by 2021, 84% of Irish people will shop online.

Digital technology and content is changing the way we live and work. Consumer behaviour is changing and with it an increasing expectation of product and service delivery.

Almost 9 out of 10 of us research online before buying. Much of what we do and what we consume is influenced by the information we find and the reviews we read on the internet.

Research conducted by iAB in 2016 showed that 75% of mobile internet users in Europe had used their mobile phone or tablet to purchase a product or service in the past 6 months. More and more customers are using the convenience of their mobile device to access the goods and services they want when they want them.

Ireland ranks very highly when it comes to the integration of digital technologies by businesses, mostly because many of our SMEs have embraced e-commerce. 30% are now trading online, which is significantly ahead of the EU average of 17%.

However, Irish consumers spend €850,000 an hour online, 24 hours a day. Up to 70% of this spend goes to businesses outside of Ireland. It is clear that trading online is critical to sustaining and enhancing competitiveness and that any business that is not actively connecting with consumers online is missing out.

The Government wants more businesses in Ireland to realise the potential of ecommerce. Digital levels the playing field for all. Every business, regardless of size or location, can benefit from trading online. Trading online opens businesses to wider markets and offers 24-hours-a-day sales opportunities for products and services.

More and more Irish businesses are recognising the opportunity and are taking the first step to bring their business online.

The Department's Trading Online Voucher Scheme, funded by the Department of Communications and delivered by the 31 Local Enterprise Offices nationwide, has supported thousands of small Irish businesses to trade online. Some 3,500 small businesses have successfully applied through the scheme for grant assistance to develop their ecommerce capability. More than 9,000 business owner and managers have benefitted from expert advice and from peer-to-peer support under the Scheme.

I would like to acknowledge Retail Excellence for their support of the scheme and Facebook and PayPal who are here today who have helped to support some of our regional events to promote the Trading Online Voucher Scheme.

The next regional event for local businesses will take place in Cavan on 9th October. I would encourage any business that could benefit from some advice on trading online to avail of this opportunity and to learn from other businesses who will be there to share their learning from the scheme. We are delighted that Retail Excellence and Facebook, along with InterTradeIreland and IEDR, Ireland’s domain registry will be participating in this half day event. Further details can be found through the Department’s website or from the Local Enterprise Office in Cavan.

The scheme has helped to develop exemplar retail businesses right across Ireland. Every business here today is located close to a small business that has been assisted in the journey to trade online. Trading online works. Business who have been through our Scheme grow on average by 21%, employ 35% more people and 3 in 5 export for the first time.

Results are not dependent on location. They are dependent on quality broadband, in a digitally equal Ireland.

The Government aims to deliver a "connected" economy and society where every consumer, company and community can realise the full social and economic potential of the digital world. The delivery of high speed broadband to every premises in Ireland is a top priority for Government.

14 months ago, only 52% of premises in Ireland had access to high speed broadband. Today that has increased to 61%. Two houses are connected every minute of every working day. Our relentless focus is on doing more and doing better in delivering results.

By end 2018, 77% of premises in Ireland will have access to high speed broadband. By 2020 that will rise to nine out of 10 premises. We are now witnessing a step change. Commercial operators have spent €2.5 billion over the last four years. They are continuing to spend an average of €1.7 million every single day. High speed broadband is revitalising rural Ireland.

We are working to ensure that no business is disadvantaged in a digital Ireland. All our citizens will have the same access to information, culture, ideas, choice and all the other opportunities that quality broadband offers. This will include greater employment opportunities, enabled by the right set of digital skills entering the workforce.

Digital adoption among citizens is being promoted through the Government’s Getting Citizens Online Programme, which includes basic digital skills training for citizens who have never used the internet. Having digital skills can empower. It's about enriching the lives of people by giving them better access to information, culture, entertainment, social networking, eGovernment services, as well as online goods and services.

Digital literacy training is currently taking place across all Counties, targeted at small business owners and farmer communities, as well as people over 45, the unemployed, persons with disabilities and disadvantaged groups. During 2017, we will support 26,000 people to get online.

With nine out of ten jobs requiring digital skills, the Department of Communications Climate Action and Environment in collaboration with the Department of Education and Skills has introduced the School Digital Champion Programme nationwide.

This is an exciting and innovative programme which enables students to develop their creativity, critical-thinking and communications skills. It facilitates project-based learning and allows students to make a real difference through the productive use of technology.

Transforming Irish small business to adopt trading online has the potential to revitalise sustainable growth to all regions. Furthermore, growth in online trade, both for businesses and consumers will drive the development of sophisticated demand for reliable and quality internet connectivity, as provided for in the National Broadband Plan.

No matter what sector, region, or market you are engaged in, trading online is an imperative. Diversification of markets is increasingly vital in the context of a post-Brexit economy. Over 300 million Europeans use the internet each day - this is a massive potential market to be tapped into, with the right tools and support.

Retail Excellence has gathered together a wealth of experience in the speakers here today. There are many ways of trading online and the journey is individual to your business. I wish you well in your ecommerce endeavours as together we develop Ireland’s digital economy.