High quality broadband is as critical to Ireland’s economic success in the future, a regional seminar has heard.

Broadband “ticks all the boxes”, delegates were told at the Southern and Eastern Regional Assembly’s ‘Broadband Strengthening Your Business’ seminar.

The National Broadband Scheme which is due to be rolled out from next month simply could not have come at a better time for business as well as home users, particularly where costs and time savings are concerned in the tougher economic climate that prevails, according to Eugene Crehan, Head of Programmes at the Centre for Entrepreneurship at Waterford Institute of Technology.

“SMEs can go global from day one because of broadband. They can instantly deliver products and services to a global market 24/7 and they can get paid instantly,” he said.

“Broadband is absolutely critical for small companies in particular. It provides them with everything from cost-effective sales and marketing techniques to remote access to information as well as time and cost savings, connectivity and security.

“Broadband and the extensive range of free to use internet based productivity tools like Skype for voice and video, Google Docs, LinkedIn, YouTube and on-line project management tools means that start-up and growing businesses can present themselves to a global market place in a highly professional manner from day one.

“It is the technology tool which will help growing businesses throughout this country achieve cost savings and reach new markets which will really drive this country forward.

He added: “Broadband is also a truly green option – no longer do we have to hop into our cars or jump on a plane to be connected to our markets. Smaller enterprises who don’t have IT departments often say they are afraid of the technology or wouldn’t know how to use it.

“But it has become so incredibly user friendly that we would encourage enterprises to take the plunge and discover the world of opportunities broadband opens for all.”

Broadband use in Ireland, while lower than many EU countries, is rapidly increasing, Southern & Eastern Regional Assembly Director, Stephen Blair, said. But the Assembly is also conscious of the need to spur more people to use broadband, particularly in a business context.

“Ireland was slow off the blocks,” he said. “We do have a lot of catching up to do. But very shortly we will have affordable, national coverage. The next challenge for us in the Assembly is to get people to actually use broadband”, said Mr Blair.

“A major strand of our Operational Programme 2007-2013 is to look at what needs to be done to spur take-up, particularly among SMEs. We really need to kick-start a dialogue about what is missing – why more people are not using broadband. In these times of tougher economic constraints, the onus is on all of us to utilise broadband, make the cost savings and make enterprise more profitable,” he said.

Entrepreneur and founder of UpTheDeise.Com, Cian Foley, said broadband had allowed him pursue his dream and set up a profitable enterprise.

“I can reach my customers in a cost-effective way – broadband allows me to rapidly respond and has truly boosted my productivity,” he said.

“Mine is a 24-hour site, accessed from all over the world. Years ago, only programmers and researchers used the web. Now children are mastering it.

“It has made the world a smaller place and offers Irish entrepreneurs a world of business opportunities. Ireland was hampered for years because of our lack of broadband connectivity.

“That has utterly changed today. Strengthening our infrastructure has already helped us level the playing field and the improvements planned are going to open the floodgates for increased inward investment,” he concluded.