Nearly 20% of Ireland’s offline SMEs are stopped from building a website or engaging in e-commerce because of a poor internet connection.

That is according to the latest edition of the .ie Digital Health Index published this week by the IE Domain Registry (IEDR), the company that manages and maintains Ireland’s country domain, .ie.

14% of Irish SMEs rate their internet connection as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’, a figure that rises to 25% in Connacht and Ulster.

Despite these issues, almost a third (32%) of Irish SMEs want more digital skills and e-commerce training.

To remedy this, IEDR is recommending the rollout of a cross-industry digital skills programme for micro-businesses that have begun their digital journey, but need help to access Ireland’s growing e-commerce market; as well as a Local Enterprise Office-run ‘buddy system’ that pairs up businesses with digital experts in their local area.

E-commerce is becoming an increasingly important part of Ireland’s economy. Ireland’s share of the European e-commerce market is €9 billion and is expected to grow to €14 billion by 2021. However, most of this spend is going abroad to foreign retailers that offer more comprehensive online services.

While only 40% of Irish SMEs with websites can take sales orders, it is a noteworthy improvement on just 30% in the last wave of research only six months ago, indicating that SMEs are realising the benefits of selling online.