Today the business environment is going through a revolution rather than an evolution. The web and associated technology is no longer an optional extra - it's key to growth. Over half of SMEs using the internet across their businesses see increased sales as a result of effective online marketing and wider geographic reach. And we at onlincolnshire are working hard to make sure that county businesses don't miss out on all that new technology has to offer.
It's now two years since our first digital conference. On the same day we also took an important step towards improving the county's broadband infrastructure by signing two contracts, one with BT and the other with ABInternet. Those contracts equated to a £40.3m investment in better broadband by local councils, BDUK, BT and the European Regional Development Fund.
So what else have we achieved in the past two years?
On the main roll-out, being carried out by BT, we have brought better broadband to more than 75,000 homes and businesses via 311 new, upgraded roadside cabinets. This is approximately 47% of the overall target. And at the end of January around 13% of enabled premises had taken up superfast services, up from the previous month.
In the east of the county, ABInternet completed their project in spring 2013, improving speeds for two areas – one around Ingoldmells and one in the fens area north of Boston. In addition to the residential subscribers in these areas, the project provides connections to some key businesses including: Skegness Pier, Lindsey Online, Laver Leisure and Boston Golf Club. A total of 4,500 premises are directly covered by this project, with a further 8,000 receiving incidental coverage, with take-up currently at 4.7%.
But it's not enough to just improve speeds; we also want to help local businesses make the most of them and the improved technology that goes hand-in-hand. To do that, we have created five new technology hubs in Lincoln, Boston, Louth, Horncastle and Mablethorpe. They contain a range of digital equipment which is free for eligible businesses to use: 3D technology, laser cutters and UV printers as well as the technical know-how.
The hubs are there to demonstrate cutting-edge technology and to help businesses understand how it could help them with their product design and production processes. So far, we have welcomed 780 businesses through the doors.
Onlincolnshire is also supporting Lincolnshire's huge array of digital businesses. We have worked with web designers, software developers, film makers, digital publishers, SEO businesses, advertising agencies and mobile technology experts. Many of these have international clients and deliver world-class products and services.
We've also helped businesses to implement digital solutions to improve their operations, a key part of which is providing support to early adopters of digital technology, helping them to find their feet. And our demonstration events and workshops on social media, internet marketing, YouTube, Google+, email management, Pinterest, selling on the Internet, cyber security and much more have been attended by 328 businesses
Since January, we have also delivered seven two-day workshops specifically aimed at the retail sector and to date over 50 businesses have taken part.
We have also worked with partners at Creative England to develop a loan fund specifically aimed at benefitting Lincolnshire's key sectors. So far six businesses have received over £100,000 of loans.
In addition, we have worked with Business Lincolnshire to develop a new e-learning portal, offering SMEs in Greater Lincolnshire access to free online digital and IT courses, from the basics of Microsoft Excel through to how to write a digital marketing strategy.
But don’t take our word for it. Watch this short video to hear from some of the local firms we have helped….
(Thanks to Chris Curtiss of Lincoln Marketing Agency who produced this video)
Councillor Colin Davie
Executive Member for Economic Development
Lincolnshire County Council