35. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will report on the progress of the trading online voucher scheme, which is part of the national digital strategy; the take up of the scheme; and his plans to expand or further develop the scheme. (Question 41789/17 asked on 04 Oct 2017)

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): My Department’s Trading Online Voucher Scheme is specifically designed to support small and micro enterprises to trade online. Through training and mentoring, coupled with financial support of up to €2,500, subject to matched funding, the scheme is helping small businesses to grow and diversify their markets.  

This is a demand-led scheme, funded by my Department and delivered on a nationwide basis by the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs).  I have allocated €3m in 2017 to deliver 1,000 more businesses trading online by the end of the year. By end June, 600 businesses had successfully applied to the Scheme this year, bringing to over 3,500 the number of businesses who have availed of grant assistance under the Scheme. Approximately 9,000 businesses have benefited from the training.  The latest figures available show that 44 businesses in County Laois and 53 businesses in County Offaly have successfully applied for a trading online voucher since the scheme was introduced in 2014.

My Department has measured the impacts on the businesses who have participated.  According to our surveys, businesses grow on average by 21%, employ 35% more people and 60% export for the first time.  The Scheme is helping to revitalise small businesses, including sole traders, from across a wide range of sectors including retail, arts, crafts and design, manufacturing, food, and professional services.  Digital trade is contributing to sustainable regional economic development, with urban and rural based businesses benefitting equally from the online opportunity.

My Department is currently scoping initiatives to build on the success of the scheme, putting Ireland further ahead of our European counterparts in realising the benefits of selling goods and services online.  This will include the development of a national website and centralised web-based infrastructure.

In collaboration with the LEOs, my Department is delivering a series of regional events to showcase the benefits of trading online, provide training and increase awareness of the Trading Online Voucher Scheme. Events have been held in Ballinasloe, Cork, Dublin, Kilkenny and Roscommon. Details of the next event, to take place in Cavan on 9th October, are available on my Department’s website (www.dccae.gov.ie/tradingonlinevoucher).