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Vodafone to teach small firms survival skills for the age of digital disruption

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Cybersecurity and remote connectivity are top priorities in the pandemic and small businesses want to get up to speed 

Mobile operator Vodafone and training partner Udemy have created a new digital training programme for the UK small businesses in response to the disruption created by the pandemic. The move follows closely on an initiative by Telefonica which teamed up with Saudi Arabia's ATCSC to offer cyber security.

The programme was launched in response to revelations in the SME Cybersecurity report, a Vodafone study of the effect of skill shortages. The study showed that companies have been rendered vulnerable to cyber attacks and panic buys in the desperate search for digital know how.  

Lessons and useful intelligence will be passed on via The Vodafone V-Hub in a mission to improve the speed, safety and efficiency of daily operations for Britain’s small businesses. Vodafone pledged there will be no sign-up fees or complicated downloads, with a simple log in providing access to 150,000 fee and ‘premium’ courses.

Vodafone claims it launched the programme after a joint study with Enterprise Nation revealed that a significant portion of British businesses don’t have the skills for the digital economy. The report on the business.connected study, released in June, claimed that a third of SMEs aren’t clear on which digital tools they need. Many are so desperate they lose all sense of proportion and two thirds of SMEs would hire a ‘digital native’ with no work experience over a ‘digital novice’ with maturity, experience and a wider perspective of business.

Cyber attacks will be fatal for SMEs 

Following this, Vodafone claims, it devised a scheme to address the skills shortage by training 100,000 SMEs in digital skills. 

Courses range from design and development, through Excel and audience management to software tutorials and strategy, says Vodafone. The courses range in scope from beginners to advanced. V-Hub users will get free access to advisers, by phone or webchat.

Cybersecurity is a priority, says Vodafone, since its own intelligence showed that a quarter of UK SMEs (around 1.3 million) would be put out of business if hit by a cyber-attack, even though the average cost is £3,230. According to Vodafone’s SME Cybersecurity report, only a third have a cybersecurity strategy and basic cybersecurity protections in place, claims Vodafone, though 40% have experienced a cyber attack in the pandemic.

“Staying connected and protected online are both consistently high on the agenda,” said Andrew Stevens, Vodafone UK’s director of small & medium business. “Many business owners don’t feel they have the experience to navigate today’s increasingly connected business environment.

"Across the 130,000 businesses who accessed V-Hub support over the past 12 months, cybersecurity skills and remote working connectivity ranked as the top two topics respectively. A big part of staying safe and staying connected is of course having the right tools in place."

In other news, Vodafone Ukraine, the second-biggest mobile carrier in the Ukraine market, has announced plans to enter the fixed broadband market.