UK businesses are lagging behind other European countries on Internet connectivity but, on the plus side, fixed broadband access is above the European average
The percentage of UK businesses with Internet access is less than that of countries such as Finland, Austria and Slovakia, according to research released by the European Union.
In a statement released this week by the European Union’s statistical office Eurostat, the UK is doing well on broadband connections – with 85 percent of businesses having a fixed connection, according to the report.
However, while the UK also boasts 91 percent of companies with Internet access, the country is still behind other nations in Europe, including Finland which has 100 percent of companies connected in some way to the net. Slovenia also rates ahead of the UK in terms of Internet access with 98 percent of businesses connected. According to the report, the European average is 93 percent of companies connected to the Internet in some form, with 82 percent connecting via broadband.
The report looked at enterprises with 10 or more people and also revealed that 12 percent of the turnover of the companies questioned was generated from e-commerce. The highest share of companies’ turnover generated by e-commerce was in Ireland with 26 percent, despite the country only boasting a fixed broadband connection for 76 percent of businesses – behind nations including the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Earlier this month, the UK government announced a consultation on how a £1 billion investment in super-fast broadband should be used to provide around 90 percent of the country with access to the networking technology, despite opposition plans to scrap the tax behind the fund if they win power at the next election.
The EU report also examined the use of emerging technologies such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, which have been touted for years as a successor to bar-codes as a way to track goods. But according to the EU research only 3 percent of companies across the EU on average are adopting the technology, with only 2 percent of businesses using the technology in the UK.
Other research released by Eurostat last year said the UK is leading the way when it comes to enthusiasm for online shopping. The figures on broadband roll-out, Internet usage and e-commerce put the UK in first place across the region for uptake of online shopping, with around 66 percent of individuals aged from 16 to 74 reporting they had bought goods on the web over the last 12 months.
The European Commission is hoping to boost levels of e-commerce across Europe by creating what it calls “a digital single market” for online commerce. The EC has stated that the Internet is the fastest growing retail channel and in 2008, 51 percent of EU retailers sold online. However the EC believes that the gap between domestic and cross-border e-commerce is widening as a result of barriers to online trade. While the share of EU consumers who shop online grew from 27 percent to 33 percent between 2006 and 2008, the share of those who bought anything online from another EU country was stagnant at 6 percent during the same time period.