Australian small businesses are being told to digitise, with $18m of funding pledged towards a new nation-wide program.

Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation, Craig Laundy announced the program on Thursday, which will provide funding for small businesses to build their digital capability through the Australian Small Business Advisory Services (ASBAS).

“The Australian Government is investing in small businesses to help them create jobs, harness opportunities and grow in the digital economy, with a major focus on regional areas,” he said.

“Research shows small businesses that are digitally engaged are more likely to grow their revenue, and up to eight times more likely to create new jobs.”

The advisory services will provide low-cost, high-quality digital advisory services for metropolitan and regional Australian small businesses.

In making an assessment of the small business’s needs, the service will provide support in:

  • Websites and selling online
  • Social media and digital marketing
  • Use of small business software
  • Online security and data privacy

“We know small business operators are busy people who sometimes struggle to adopt new technology. We also know how critical it is for them to keep up with technological change. That is why we have refocused ASBAS support away from general business advisory services to target digital capabilities,” said Laundy.

The program is open to small businesses with less than 20 full time (or equivalent) employees, including sole traders.

The total $18m round of funding will be divided between three providers around the country over three years, the Penrith City and District Business Advisory Centre (NSW/ACT), Business Station Incorporated (QLD/NT/WA) and Darebin Enterprise Centre (SA/VIC/TAS).

The move follows the launch of the Small Business Digital Taskforce late last year – a initiative headed by Australian entrepreneur Mark Bouris – that looks to engage small businesses with the digital economy.

The taskforce found that only one in five small businesses has a digital business strategy in place.