The UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has stepped up its campaign to entice small and medium sized companies to use the Internet via its Enterprise Zone Web site.
Currently, two-thirds of the UK?s 191,000 SMEs have the capacity to access the Internet but less than a quarter actually use it.
Barbara Roche, the minister for small businesses called for more businesses to put their sites forward for inclusion on Enterprise Zone.
She urged: "We are particularly keen to identify sites with good quality financial information."
The Enterprise Zone, a site set up jointly by the DTI and the Business Links initiative, was set up at the beginning of November with a view to making Internet use more practical for SMEs. The idea was to bring together information that is particularly relevant to growing businesses and therefore cut user search time to a minimum.
The site began with links to 70 approved sites. A month later 50 organisations have put forward their sites. Of the 22 sites which the DTI have tested, five are eligible for linkage to the EZ. At the moment the content ranges from general technology advice, market research guidelines, to advice on how to procure or manage finance.
William Comery, spokesperson for Business Links, sees the site providing advice for specialist business as well. He said: "The design of the site will be amended to include any number of links, ensuring that the Zone is still easy to use and reaching the largest possible audience."
With 8,000 hits scored within the first few weeks of EZ?s existence, the business community is enthusiastic about the #200,000 initiative but reserving judgement on its effectiveness.
A CBI spokesman welcomed EZ. He said: "Any opportunities for SMEs to access information capable of adding real commercial value is very welcome so we will be monitoring developments with interest."
Stephen Alambritis, head of parliamentary affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses, saw the move as an important look forward. He enthused: "Not all of our 100,000 members are on the Internet but we?ve featured the EZ on our newsletter in the hope it will encourage them to get up to speed."
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