The SME Advisory Panel met for the fourth and final time last week to discuss the state of the UK economy and the impact on small and medium-sized enterprises. The panel's focus was to gather opinion on the state of the economy and focus on the Government's Digital Britain report and how broadband bandwidth can help shape the future of the UK and aid bounce-back of the economy.

You can find a detailed analysis of the panel's findings on the small business website and also download podcasts of the whole event. Some of the main areas covered by the panel included:

  • Broadband speeds - why they are important and how they can affect business performance
  • Short comings of the Digital Britain report (eg contention ratio in cities where more people are fighting for same broadband bandwidth)
  • Cloud computing - what it is, how it is already being used and its potential for SMEs
  • Digital advocates - Martha Lane Fox, Alan Sugar, and how they have helped promote the importance of entrepreneurialism in the UK economy
  • Contingency planning (for events such as swine flu, floods, terrorism...)
  • Mobile broadband and smart working
  • Digital infrastructure requirements for integrating unemployed back into the workforce
  • Consumer behaviour - how it is shaping business change towards digital

And on the current state of the UK economy, some of the main points that emerged included:

  • The UK economy is set to shrink by 4.5% in this year and many have warned that hopes of economic recovery are "running ahead of reality" as unemployment continues to rise
  • Recovery from the recession is expected to take at least three years but nonetheless, we are beginning to see some small positive changes, such as bank lending for example.
  • Confidence is beginning to rise as people want to get on with their lives. Positive signs are backed up by FSB figures, where 25% of members' trade has increased and 58% are more confident and optimistic.

It's well worth reading the panel's findings in more details - SME Advisory Panel