Here are the week’s main news stories in the world of small business and digital payments:
40,000 SMEs refused apprentices due to funding shortage
Training providers will have to reject up to 40,000 SMEs due to limited apprenticeship levy funds. The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) said two-fifths of 135 apprenticeship providers surveyed have had to turn away SMEs looking for recruits. In response, the government recently announced that small employers would be let on to the digital apprenticeship service that was previously open only to levy-payers. However, due to funding constraints, SMEs will be capped at just three starters each. One unnamed provider in AELP’s survey reported: “We are having to turn our backs on small and micro businesses who have supported apprenticeships for many years, because we do not have funding available.” SMEs do not pay the apprenticeship levy but must instead rely on any surplus of funds left after levy-paying employers have taken their entitlement. The association has repeated its call for the restoration of the £1.5 billion apprenticeship budget available to SMEs before the levy was introduced.
Tech problems waste SME resources
The average worker may be wasting up to 72 minutes a day because of poor connectivity and technology problems, according to a survey of more than 1,000 workers at UK SMEs. That adds up to about 2.5 days per year. The report, issued by internet service provider Zen Internet, found that 85 per cent of SMEs said their productivity was impacted by an unreliable internet connection. Half of the annoyed workers (51 per cent) felt this could result in unhappy customers and frustrated colleagues (67 per cent). Fortunately, UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has announced new regulations intended to promote the expansion of broadband fibre infrastructure outside of metropolitan areas and improve connectivity.
E-payments too slow in Malaysia, say merchants
Merchants in the Malaysian state of Negeri Sembilan have said they’d like to see faster activations for electronic payment platforms. They say e-payments are in widespread use and popular with younger people, but that the registration and activation process for new users is taking up to a month.
This presents an inconvenience for businesses and customers if their activation is still in process. The Southeast Asian nation recently implemented a plan to top up e-wallets for citizens, providing a total of RM450 million for a programme that provides qualified users with a RM30 credit to the participating e-wallet service of their choice.
UK SMEs have their heads in the cloud
UK SMEs are continuing to move their IT into the cloud, according to a new report. More than half (57 per cent) are planning to increase their adoption, according to a study by UK IT services provider OGL Computer. In addition, 59 per cent of SMEs intend to increase the use of applications such as Microsoft Office 365, Teams and SharePoint. However, moving to the cloud still causes SMEs some anxiety, with 76 per cent expressing concern about moving from an on-premises IT infrastructure to a cloud infrastructure, due to worries about data security. This is understandable, as the study found that 81 per cent have suffered either a cyberattack or a data breach, with 37 per cent saying they had been the target of multiple attacks. “[SMEs] are ready to test new products and services and are increasing their IT and security budgets to benefit from emerging technologies that will change the way we work," said OGL Computer technical director and cyber division head Paul Colwell.
Thailand to boost e-payments and SMEs
Thailand’s Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana is working on several initiatives designed to take technology further into his nation’s economy. He is focused on expanding the national e-payment system, improving the competitiveness of SMEs and strengthening the local economy in 2020. Expanding the national e-payment system is aimed at making life more convenient for people and increase the competitiveness of small businesses.