Google Inc. and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor today launched a NIS 40 million project to set up websites for 20,000 small and mid-sized businesses for free for one year. Israel Postal Company Ltd., Apple Inc. representative iDigital Ltd., B2C Print Inc., Webydo Inc., and Israel Credit Cards-Cal Ltd. (ICC-Cal) (Visa) are also participating in the venture.
Businesses interested in the program can contact its website Asakimonline.
Google is operating similar projects with local partners in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and India.
At today's press conference, Google Israel, South Africa & Greece managing director Meir Brand said that 51 percent of Israeli businesses have no online presence. He said that most of Israel's 400,000 small and mid-sized businesses opt not to set up a website, due to cost concerns.
A study by consultancy firm Halevi Dweck Ltd. found that the cost of a basic website package, including set-up, registering the domain name, and storage, in Israel was on average double the price in other Western countries. Israel was the second most expensive country of the 14 countries surveyed, topped only by Denmark. The cost of storage space in Israel was four times the average of the 14-country survey.
"We all live online, we play on it, search on it, and participate in it. But even though we all live and breath online, most small business are not there. Imagine walking down a street where half the stores are closed -- that's what is happening in the digital space. Working today without the internet is like working without a telephone," said Brand.
According to a study by TNS, 75 percent of Israelis say that they carry out research online before buying at a store. Therefore, the potential of an online presence is great and could boost sales.
As part of the Google initiative, small businesses will receive a website designed by a professional, a domain name gratis for one year, free storage for one year, telephone and internet support during the website set-up stage, business cards that includes the website address, and training on features and tips for online growth.
Brand said that any small business can participate in the program provided that it operates via an Israeli telephone number.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Shalom Simhon said, "We're going to revolutionize these businesses, which are the biggest employer in Israel, with more than two million people. The Israeli venture knows how to immediately identify opportunities, and I completely believe that the quota will be filled fast, and we'll have to talk about the next venture."
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