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Former Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte. Photo: Frank McGrath

Former Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte. Photo: Frank McGrath

Former Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte. Photo: Frank McGrath

The government has wildly overestimated the number of Irish businesses with websites, research shows.

New figures reveal just how poorly Irish businesses are handling the emergence of the digital age, and how government is failing to support them.

Just 46,000 Irish businesses have websites, the research found. Data from the Central Statistics Office suggest this figure is 141,000.

It was compiled by OnlinePages.ie, a new company that is launching a Golden Pages-style online directory of Irish businesses.

There is one caveat - to be listed, a business must have a website.

All eligible businesses are displayed in alphabetical order, unlike Google searches with priorities those who spend on advertising.

"Over the last six months we undertook a massive task of logging and categorising as many business websites as we could find to populate our new search engine" said the OnlinePages.ie chief executive Teddy Daly.

"When the figures started to come through we were incredibly surprised at how few websites there actually were."

His company's research indicates that an average of68pc of all businesses have a website, but this changes considerably depending on business type.

Around nine out of ten accommodation providers are thought to have a site but that falls to 30pc for skilled traders.

"Our figures indicate there are just 179 electrician websites in the country, 231 for plumbers and just 88 sites for painter/decorators" Mr Daly said.

"We haven't logged every site but, but by checking large random samples of sites against our database we are very confident we have captured at least 74pc of all sites out there."

Irish consumers will spend €5.9bn online this year, a report by Amarach Research predicts.

This should rise to around €12.7bn by 2020. Three fifths of us buy something online at least once a month.

But most of the proceeds is enjoyed by foreign companies and multinationals like Amazon.

Over two thirds of online shopping by Irish consumers currently goes abroad, some €3.6bn.

"We need to get as many Irish businesses online and we need to do that as quickly as possible" said Amarach.

"Given the size of the prize in jobs and economic value, this requires urgent attention."

The findings cast doubt on whether the government's National Digital Strategy, launched last summer by former Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte and communications tzar David Puttnam, goes far enough.

The strategy's flagship offer for businesses is a voucher worth up to €2,500, to be matched by their own funding, to build an online presence.

Sunday Indo Business