The Elephant in the Room; Digital Initiatives in NI

Connected is the way forward. Never before have SME’s and micro businesses had more opportunities. “Cottage industry” now means weaving relationships and delivering content globally.

OptimiSE The South East Digital Development programme was launched recently in Banbridge. Their “Road Show” will be travelling the province with dates from March through June. Daryl Conway, SE Digital Champion had the attention of economic development officers, enterprise agency directors and SMEs. We were challenged to rethink every aspect of our digital marketing strategy. It’s not all Facebook and Twitter. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), Email marketing, eCommerce, Video Production, Branding and Advertising assistance will all be made available. Free.

All good? Yes and No!

Yes: EU funded, this programme is exactly what SEO’s and micro businesses have been calling for – that part is great!

Creating fabulous content, being on the right platforms and making the first page on Google searches is even better.

No: It’s all useless if you’re on the motorway with a flat, you know there is a tyre company in the next town and there is no 3G to search! It’s worse if you’ve been made redundant, you’ve started a business but you can’t work from home because broadband (no less high speed broadband) isn’t reliable where you live.

There may not be a business case for BT to deliver high speed broadband to a remote or rural areas. We need to be able to challenge those decisions and elect to pay for access where possible. Government can make BT accountable. Monopoly comes with corporate social responsibility. Transparency is essential.

Not just a Broadband issue: Mobile voice coverage alone remains an issue.  Flat on the Motorway between Dublin & Belfast? No loss of coverage south of the border. Dead spots in South Armagh and Hillsborough. Mountains may well be an issue with the former, but there’s no excuse for Hillsborough. Prepare to walk for 25 minutes to get a signal.

Commuting between Derry/L’derry & Belfast. Don’t bother carpooling to get work done. No service for miles on end.

So please sign up for Digital Marketing Skills training. Then start lobbying Stormont to deliver equal access for most.