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Essex firms boost online protection but lack appetite for essential digital skills

05 Dec Essex firms boost online protection but lack appetite for essential digital skills

East of England businesses have stepped up their protection against cyber threats in 2019, but a lack of interest in other digital tactics could be holding them back, according to Lloyds Bank’s latest Business Digital Index (BDI).

The annual report, the largest of its kind into digital skills, polled 1,500 small businesses across the UK, with 170 from the East of England. The report combines survey data with businesses’ transactional data to understand their digital behaviours and intentions.

The security index for the region, which outlines whether firms are protecting themselves against hackers and fraudsters, shot up by 14 points on last year to 43. An index reading of zero indicates a lack of online cybersecurity capabilities while a reading of 100 shows robust defensive measures are in place.

The region’s businesses are in line with the national average when it comes to security. Three quarters (75 per cent) have already invested in their cyber security skills, or are planning to in future, compared with 78 per cent nationally.

But despite the high interest in cyber security, a lack of Essential Digital Skills could be hampering opportunities to boost sales or productivity. More than half of firms in the East of England (52 per cent) lack the full range of Essential Digital Skills, compared with the national average of 44 per cent.

Businesses in the East of England had a lower than average appetite to build their digital strategy and leadership skills, with only a third (34 per cent) either having done so already or with plans to do so in future. This compared with 44 per cent nationally.

The region also fell below the UK average for attaining skills, or having plans to build them, in search engine optimisation (SEO) (42 per cent, nine points below UK average), social media and marketing (48 per cent, seven points below UK average), and customer data analytics (30 per cent, 11 points below UK average).