Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation Niall Collins TD has said that the Government must examine possibilities to expand the Trading Online Voucher Scheme.

The scheme was put in place to support small businesses in getting a foothold in the online marketplace. The vouchers are available from local enterprise offices.

Deputy Collins made the comments after receiving new information which shows that just over 1,100 vouchers were availed of in both 2015 and 2016. €3m has been allocated to the scheme for 2017.

Deputy Collins said, “Nearly 70% of Ireland’s online consumer spending currently goes overseas according to the European Commission. The online marketplace is expected to grow significantly in the years ahead so there is a need to ensure that Irish businesses have a presence online to take advantage of this.

“Greater supports are urgently needed to assist businesses in securing a high profile presence online. This can be achieved by expanding the Trading Online Voucher Scheme in order to give Irish businesses in all regions increased market share as online consumption grows. This is now more important than ever with Brexit on the horizon.

“High speed broadband is a must for small businesses to compete in e-commerce. It connects small businesses to a global market so they need to be able to utilise the latest digital technologies to enable their enterprises to grow and prosper.

“The roll out of the National Broadband Plan has been haphazard with over 500,000 homes and businesses still waiting for information on when they will be able to access high speed broadband. The National Competitiveness Council has said that regional jobs growth is being stunted due to the sluggish roll out of the National Broadband Plan.

“High speed broadband is also needed for the development of online e-commerce opportunities for Irish SMEs. It is essential that SME businesses, which employ over 900,000 people nationwide, are given every support to diversify their sales platform,” concluded Deputy Collins.