Tutorial 1: Getting Started Online

Getting Started

Getting started online doesn’t have to be daunting or expensive. The first step to getting online is to set up a basic web presence. Many small businesses think getting online is expensive and difficult. In today’s environment this simply isn’t true. In fact it is relatively easy.

There are many free (or reasonably priced) and easy to use website tools online. These tools allow you to build a simple web presence for your business. You just need to know where to look!

Every business should at minimum have a simple website. This will allow you to be found online and to promote your business to customers and prospects.

You cannot afford to wait any longer to get online. No matter what industry you are in, the chances are your competitors are already using the web to attract your customers.

Free online web building tools:

Below is a list of some of the best known website tools.

  • WordPress: One of the most commonly used tools, WordPress has a large support community, a wide range of templates to choose from and a user-friendly interface. Users can get started for free, and it is an open source tool meaning the code is free. This is important if you decide to build a more comprehensive site in the future.
  • Shopify: A useful tool for those businesses who wish to facilitate eCommerce (the ability to process online shopping).
  • Squarespace: A low cost, easy to use website builder, it leads the field in the proprietary web tools space.
  • Tumblr: Where websites and social media merge. Tumblr can be a particularly useful tool for those businesses who pride themselves on aesthetics and imagery and would like their content to be easily shared.
  • Wix: Another free website builder with a range of templates and user support.
  • Weebly: Free website builder with no need to sign up if you already have a Facebook account.

Our choice:

We generally recommend WordPress for a number of reasons.

  • There is a huge range of free and paid templates to choose from
  • Getting started is quick and easy
  • The interface is user-friendly, and
  • Because it is Open Source, there are a large number of users providing a comprehensive support network online when you get stuck.

That said, each business should investigate its options and choose the solution that is most suited to its own needs. There is no right or wrong answer and any of the tools mentioned above will get you online quickly and easily.

Getting started in under 20 minutes:

We’ve recorded a 20 minute webinar stepping you through the process of setting up a free basic website with WordPress. This is just a basic framework, and those who want a more comprehensive website can spend much more time expanding and perfecting their presence according to their needs.

Set aside 20 minutes to watch the recording after which you will have the knowledge to get your business online.

The Digital Economy Glossary

The Digital Economy, digital technologies, the digital divide and digital strategy – we’re well aware it can be easy to get lost in all the jargon and tech-speak. We’ve put together a simple glossary to help you make sense of the terminology and get to the bottom of how to use the internet.

Digital Economy: The Australian Government defines the digital economy as: “The global network of economic and social activities that are enabled by information and communications technologies, such as the internet, mobile and sensor networks.” Another way to think of it is as the internet enabled economy

National Broadband Network (NBN): The Department of Communications defines the NBN as a next-generation broadband network designed for Australia’s future needs. It will provide faster, more reliable broadband access to all Australian homes and businesses through a mix of three technologies: optic fibre, fixed wireless and next-generation satellite. The NBN is also the biggest telecommunications reform in Australia’s history. The NBN is currently under government review to determine details of the future rollout.

Digital Technology: The term ‘digital technology’ for our purposes refers to the entire digital eco-system. This includes the NBN, mobile connectivity, the world wide web, cloud computing applications, apps, and all other digital and computing hardware, software or data.

Cloud Computing: This term according to TechTerms refers to applications and services offered over the Internet. These services are offered from data centers all over the world, which collectively are referred to as the “cloud.” This metaphor represents the intangible, yet universal nature of the Internet. If you use an email service such as Gmail or Hotmail you are already using the cloud.

Digital Divide: Digital divide refers to a gap between different groups and demographics, defined by their access to knowledge and resources surrounding new information and communication tools such as the internet and associated technologies. An often cited digital divide, is the divide between senior citizens and teenagers’ familiarity with social media platforms. The digital divide is also used to describe the divide that will open up between those with high speed broadband access and those without it.

Digital Disruption: Deloitte define digital disruption as a measure of how much the arrival of new digital technologies will drive change for business, the economy and society as a whole. The music and newspaper industries are among the industries most deeply disrupted by digital technologies as people now access music and news services and products online often free of charge.

e-Commerce: TechTarget define e-Commerce as the buying and selling of goods and services on the Internet, especially the World Wide Web. In practice, this term and a newer term, e-business, are often used interchangeably. For online retail selling, the term e-tailing is sometimes used.

e-Health: e-Health refers to the use of digital technologies in the delivery of health information for professionals and consumers, the use of IT to improve public health services and education, and the use of e-commerce practices in health systems management.

Open Data: Open Data Handbook defines open data as “data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone –subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and share alike”.

3D Printing: The making of parts and products using a computer-driven, additive process, one layer at a time. 3D printing builds plastic and metal parts directly from CAD drawings that have been cross sectioned into thousands of layers. It provides a faster and less costly alternative to machining (cutting, turning, grinding and drilling solid materials). (from PC Mag)

For more information on internet basics, terminology and getting started, see the Department of Communications’ Internet Basics web resources. The Internet Basics website also has its own extensive glossary of internet terms, which can be found here.

 

The ‘Internet Advantage’ for SMEs

According to a report from the Boston Consulting Group a surprising number of SMEs (small and medium enterprises) worldwide are “leaving an enormous opportunity untapped”.

Across 11 of the G-20 countries, SMEs using high levels of digital technology have experienced revenue growth that was up to 22 percent higher than that achieved by SMEs with low or no use of the web over a three year period.

Sales at what BCG refer to as “high-web companies” increased six times as fast as revenues at firms with no internet presence. This is partly due to the fact high-web companies are twice as likely to have access to national or international customer bases outside of their local market.

The Boston Consulting group have highlighted five ‘levers’ that explain the advantages high-web SME’s receive that businesses in the Hume region may also capitalise on.

1. Geographic Expansion: The internet creates a borderless world for many SME’s, enabling them to compete with much larger, multinational companies by accessing markets that were previously out of reach.

2. Enhanced Marketing: Online marketing delivers expanded reach and measurable returns. It also yields valuable data about consumers and their preferences, enabling targeted and personalised advertising and offers.

3. Improved Customer Interactions: Social media make it possible for companies to engage in real-time dialog with customers not only to boost sales but also to build loyalty and even to help create, refine and enhance products and services.

4. Leveraging The Cloud: SMEs can access sophisticated, often cloud-based, tools to enhance a wide range of functions, including customer relationship management, information management, and customer payments. As a result, these companies can grow quickly without requiring large investments in infrastructure.

5. Easier and Quicker Staff Recruitment: The recruiting options available today are more powerful and less expensive that ever before, and they enable SMEs to tap a global talent market.

So what’s stopping SME’s tapping into these under-utilised levers? Barriers are generally identified as poor access to technology, lack of capabilities, lack of resources and doubt over the potential returns.

The good news is that none of these levers are out of reach for the average Australian business. Almost all basic tools are available in a free format and there are countless resources to help you get them working for your business.

A great place to start is to take the digital diagnostic on this website (also available through www.digitaldiagnostic.net.au). THe diagnostic takes 5 minutes to complete and will highlight areas where you can start working on your business. The diagnostic tool then links to a series of resources to help you get started on the changes you need to make.

 

 

Marketing Digital Hume

The fifth and final strategic focus area for Digital Hume is Marketing Digital Hume, aiming to strengthen the region’s branding and identity as a forward-looking and connected ‘smart region’. Digital Hume will promote a great environment and a diverse, modern economy that is attractive to current and future investors and communities.

There are now many communities across Australia making the transition to digital technologies and creating innovative ways to put their community on the map. One such example is the community development organisation All We Need is Right Here in the Shire of Kalamunda.

All We Need is Right Here have built a comprehensive community connection website, providing a range of ways for members of the community to connect with people, organisations, culture, business and local assets.

The platform utilises digital networks to facilitate the use and appreciation of resources already at the disposal of the community. The relationship is shown below (taken from www.allweneedisrighthere.org)

www.allweneedisrighthere.org

The site allows individuals to make their own profiles, possesses an interests directory, clubs and organisations directory and an online market place. Community members can even post their own news and stories.

Project Officer, Maria D’Souza says “the aim of the website is to make visible all the amazing assets we have in the Shire of Kalamunda and to connect people around those assets”.

Whether it be on a designated community site or simply a collection of online networks like social media, all communities, including Hume, can use the digital economy to connect and strengthen their networks. This in turn will provide a more unified and productive place to live and put Hume on the map.

Below are a list of online resources available through this project to help you stay connected with the Hume region and its progress in the digital economy:

 

 

 

How Connectivity Empowers Communities

With the Coalition review into the NBN, the technical details of how we’ll be connected are still an unknown for many regions in Australia. However, what is certain is that faster internet speeds are coming (regardless of the method) and that they will have a huge impact on our society. Arguably regional Australia will benefit more than the metropolitan areas.

Internet connectivity has the ability to significantly help those who are disadvantaged whether it be due to geography, economic conditions, education or health.

If we don’t get our High Speed Broadband connectivity strategy right, the likelihood of a digital divide between those able to take advantage of high speed broadband and those who can’t will increase..

A recent interview from Wired with Bill Clinton and Bill Gates highlighted some of the impacts connectivity can have on a world scale.

When asked about the value of connecting the world with the internet, Clinton commented that connectivity can be “incredibly empowering to people on the bottom of the economic pyramid”. He noted that after the South Asia tsunami, something as simple as cell phone connectivity for fishing families boosted the average income by 30 per cent. Internet connectivity in Haiti completely revoloutionised the way Haitians managed their currency and banking transactions.

Gates emphasised its impact on the state of health care, education and government. “Connectivity is an amazing thing, like connecting up a health center so we can get advice to a health worker who may not be trained as a doctor.”

“Getting connectivity to schoolrooms is a fantastic thing. Connectivity enables transparency for better government, education and health.”

A September report by the National Rural Health Alliance Inc states that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote communities face distinct challenges in accessing and using basic telecommunications services.

“In 2008-09, Internet use was significantly lower among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (62 per cent) compared with the national average (74 per cent).”

By creating more connected networks combined with education and resources, big steps can be taken towards closing the gap. This emphasises that we focus less on the platform that provides us with connectivity, and more on what we do with it when it’s here.

 

 

All Online by 2017

By engaging and up-skilling all communities in the Hume region, the Hume Digital Strategy aims to have all residents online by 2017. The challenge requires the coordination of organisations, resources and technologies in order to encompass all groups in the community.

Local governments are a key driver behind the move toward greater digital literacy, and can help by providing both physical and intellectual resources to facilitate community learning. One local government currently leading the way is the Adelaide City Council. The Grote Street Library is home to the Adelaide Digital Hub. The hub “aims to connect the community and city businesses with technology and the online world and get ready for the National Broadband Network (NBN)”.

The Digital Hub includes a community training program, a Digital Enterprise Program for business, an Innovation Lab and the iPad Buddy Program.

The Digital Enterprise Program is comprised of an interactive workshop series designed to lead businesses through the practical information they need to know about the NBN, an introduction to tools that can improve efficiency and demonstration of online marketing tools, including social media. The program, funded by the federal government, will help provide a strong foundation for businesses to establish their digital presence.

Some groups are at higher risk of digital exclusion than others. Statistics show that older members of the Australian community are less likely to utilise internet access, and a 2010 report identified that lack of interest and skill were main drivers behind low levels of involvement, as well as the cost of holding an internet connection.

The iPad Buddy System helps engage older residents with digital technologies by providing each participant with an iPad, a volunteer buddy, a support network and regular social catch-ups, allowing participants to meet other residents share their experience. The iPads come pre-loaded with books, games and apps, and best of all, it’s free!

Many communities around the world are doing work to close the digital gap. The video below from Governance International shows how local programs in Camden in the UK are helping older citizens become digitally active.

What do you think? How can we get ALL online by 2017? We’d love to hear your ideas.

Public Services in a Digital Age

Hume’s third strategic focus area is working towards transforming public services. The objective is to use new digital media to create smarter, better designed, more accessible public services with reduced costs and higher impact.

Revenue and expenditure pressures are set to intensify in the coming decades as expectations increase for governments to cut the relative cost of public administration while simultaneously improving public services. Extra pressure will fall on the shoulders of government as a result of Australia’s aging population; dramatically affecting government revenue, expenditure and demand for services.

Part of the movement will involve the education and training of the public to facilitate their use of the digital services. Brisbane and Adelaide are already running Digital Hubs to provide training to those who need it. The Adelaide based hub is also offering a Digital Enterprise Program for business and an innovation lab. These investments in the present will no doubt provide return in the future as the public participate in higher levels of digital service provision from government departments.

New tools are being continuously developed to improve the efficiency of government service. Between open source programs and the growing use of applications, the options available to government departments are increasing while the cost is steadily on the decline. One great example is the Snap Send Solve app, which allows anyone to take a photo of a public issue (such as a pot hole or fallen tree), send it to the appropriate council and have the issue resolved.

Code for America is a not for profit organisation in the US that works with US cities to develop applications to help improve the delivery of public services. Some interesting apps include Adopt a Hydrant (members of the public assist council to maintain water hyrants) and Street Mix (members of the public can design their ideal neighbourhood). A full list of apps can be seen at http://www.codeforamerica.org/apps/

Albury Wodonga have outlined the top five Council services that members of the public would like to utilise online. They are:

  1. Customer service enquiries
  2. Paying rates electronically
  3. Voting in local government elections
  4. Submitting forms and applications
  5. Participating in community consultations and workshops

So what can you do to get the most from government services now and in the future? Keeping yourself educated on new digital technologies is an important starting point. Get involved across social media platforms, stay up to date with council apps and online services, perform more admin processes online (for example, pay your rates) and most importantly talk and share about digital technologies in your local communities. Sharing knowledge is an invaluable part of taking the next steps forward in the digital economy.

Shaping success for your enterprise

The fourth strategic focus area of the Hume digital strategy is about encouraging digitally enabled business in the Hume region. New research conducted by IBM and the NIEIR (National Institute of Economic and Industry Research) has presented evidence of superior financial performance for digitally advanced enterprises.

The key message is that enterprises cannot afford to stand still as digital technologies continue to redefine the business and government landscape. Several factors, including faster broadband and more sophisticated e-commerce systems, are exposing Australian organisations to unprecedented competition both domestically and abroad.

Organisations who recognise the need for change can build a transformation agenda as set out by the IBM report in five steps below.

1. Establish your position quickly. Establish whether you are a leader or a follower within your market. A good way to look at this is to focus on metrics that indicate your ability to compete in the digital age. e.g. percentage of services or sales delivered online.

2. Clarify timing. How important is it to be a leader in your sector? How quickly are digital technologies impacting your industry and how fast is your organisation’s capacity to change? These are questions you need to consider when timing your digital transformation.

3. Identify levers for action. Review which ‘levers’ are available to your organisation to drive change. They may be how you deal with your customers, how you reinvent your work practices and incentives, how you manage your cost base, how you use technology and assets or how you engage with your stakeholders.

4. Set priorities. While all your levers of change are important, you will need to decide where to focus your efforts and in what time frames. Keep in mind the plans of your competitors and how each set of actions tie back to your transformation objectives. Be sure to track progress once your priorities have been decided.

5. Develop a transformation narrative. Create a ‘story’ that clearly expresses your current position, the need for change and your plan for the future. Undertake the narrative on both a high level and a detailed business level. Describe how time will be managed and set targets.

While the IBM research is targeted at generally larger enterprises, all local businesses can start by completing the online digital readiness diagnostic. The 25 question tool will help you understand where you currently stand and where you need to go.

The full report in detail and other resources are available from IBM for download.

Digital Strategy for Albury Wodonga

Albury and Wodonga have recently released their digital economy strategy for public feedback. In the spirit of advocating and sharing digital information, we spoke with Matt Taylor, Manager of Economic Development at the City of Wodonga, about the report and its implications going forward for the cities of Albury and Wodonga.

The full report can be downloaded from the City of Wodonga here, and community feedback is highly encouraged. An executive summary is also available for those with limited time. Matt Taylor emphasised that the report highlights that the potential benefits of the digital economy are extremely significant.

“The upper limit of our forecasted benefits from the digital economy is $571 million per annum in value added. The impact that could have on our community is enormous.”

The Albury Wodonga area is well placed in terms of digital readiness, largely due to a number of key business leaders who are setting the example in embracing digital technologies along with council digital initiatives such as the ‘Snap Send Solve’ app for reporting incidents to council. But as with all communities in Australia, there are a number of challenges to be faced in order to reach the upper limit and unleash the full benefits of the digital economy.

One of the biggest challenges is communicating the realistic benefits and costs to the community to facilitate adoption. A 2013 local business survey revealed that 30% of respondents believed there would be no benefit from digital training, while 10% of respondents believe the costs of implementing a digital strategy will outweigh the benefits.

Education and digital leadership therefore need to comprise a large part of the digital strategy. Digital success will partly be a product of a digital culture in the region that supports and grows itself. Local collaboration around digital best practice and good news stories should be facilitated through networking events, discussion forums and the creation of an online digital business portal for learning and sharing.

An integral component of the digital culture will be the establishment of a Digital Economy Strategy Working Group. The group should be comprised of key members from government, business, health, education and the community to promote ownership of the strategy and appropriately coordinate the digitisation of all sectors in the Albury Wodonga community.

There are 31 key actions in the delivery project plan. Some interesting actions include:

  • The establishment of the working group as discussed above
  • Delivery of an eGovernment project to expand Council services online
  • Delivery of a desktop client video all/booking project for community engagement and internal corporate use
  • Establishment of a “Digital Retail Champions” network for collaboration to address barriers to digital retail
  • Review of Wi-Fi in Wodonga
  • Increased awareness of health models and the introduction of NBN funded telehealth scheme

The full delivery project plan is available from page 52 of the strategy.

If you are doing some great work with digital technologies in the Hume region, submit your story to Digital Hume to share your wisdom with the rest of the community.

How to market Digital Hume

The fifth and final strategic focus in the Hume Digital Strategy is the marketing of Digital Hume. The strategy recommends using Digital Hume to strengthen the region’s branding and identity as a forward-looking and connected “smart-region” with a great environment and a diverse, modern economy that is attractive to current and future investors and communities.

The strategy is to put Digital Hume at the centre of the marketing and branding of the region. To achieve this the following actions will be undertaken:

  • Making Digital Hume a core part of the suite of initiatives and strategies marketing the region
  • Using Digital Hume to reinforce a wider effort by the Hume Alliance to market the region for inward investment, lifestyle re-location and to retain key workers
  • Ensuring digital initiatives in the region are promoted under a common “Digital Hume” branding – whether or not the initiatives are undertaken by the Hume digital partnerships or partner members
  • Collaborating on sharing best practice and resources amongst the communication and marketing professionals of all partner organisations

Do you have ideas for marketing Digital Hume? We’d love to hear your ideas via Facebook, Twitter or comment on this post below.