Small businesses are being urged to get online and embrace digital technologies so Australia can enjoy the economic gains that would come with the roll out of high speed technologies, Minister for Small Business Nick Sherry said at the launch of Telstra’s Digital Business.

Research by global analysts IDC found that small businesses could save more than $3,000 per year just by adopting key components of the Telstra Digital Business package, a $600 million, five-year investment that is aimed to help Australian small businesses make the switch to new digital communications.

Sherry said high speed fixed and mobile data services will be the backbone of the digital economy that will provide business opportunities such as improved productivity, reduced overheads and bigger customer bases.

“A business’ regular customers no longer have to be local families. Innovative and entrepreneurial businesses are able to reach new markets and more people than would have been possible just a few years ago,” he said.

“At the same time the internet has changed the way businesses interact with these customers, changing conditions that offer up both amazing opportunities and challenges for Australia’s small businesses.

“The Australian Government is confident that our resourceful and innovative small business sector will be able to meet these challenges and capitalise on the opportunities.”

He also noted that currently, small businesses receive more than a quarter of all Australian internet income but in 2008-09 only 53.5 per cent of small businesses had a web presence.

“These numbers will grow as more businesses realise the benefits of participating in the digital economy,” Sherry said.

“The Access Economics’ report Household E-Commerce Activity and Trends in Australia suggests that the NBN is likely to be a catalyst for the development of e-commerce in Australia because of its increased speed, reliability and equality of access.”

As part of the Digital Business, Telstra will provide new voice calling features, free calls, domain registration and broadband back-up service.

Digital Business is designed for businesses with up to 10 employees initially and will be available in capital cities from late May, expanding nationally to 1600 exchanges covering 90 per cent of Australian small business by September. It will also expand to cover businesses with up to 25 staff. Package prices start at $120 per month.