Google and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry launched a joint initiative
Wednesday that aims to help 20,000 small- and medium-sized Israeli businesses
create a website within a year.
AsakimOnline (Businesses Online) offers
SMBs a variety of website templates, a domain address and Web hosting. Any
business with an Israeli phone number can establish and maintain a website free
of charge for the first 12 months. Businesses that wish to maintain the
website afterward will pay NIS 860 per year.
Although Israel is a world
leader in terms of the Internet sector’s contribution to gross domestic product,
e-commerce is still relatively small because 51 percent of Israeli businesses
have no online presence, Google Israel CEO Meir Brand said at the Tel Aviv
launch. The situation was particularly dire in the Negev, Galilee and Jerusalem,
where 60% of businesses operate without a website, he said.
“For a small
business to operate without the Internet today is akin to operating without a
telephone,” Brand said. “Millions of Israeli consumers search the Internet for
businesses that cannot be found, and that is a shame.”
The problem was
largely one of cost, he said, citing internal research that found Israeli
businesses pay on average twice what their counterparts in other Western
countries do to establish and maintain a website. Israel was the
second-most expensive of 14 countries surveyed by Google, trailing only Denmark,
According to a report released last March by international
management consulting firm McKinsey, three-quarters of Israelis purchase goods
and services at “bricks-and-mortar” establishments after first researching
online, placing them among the world’s most frequent users of the “research
online, purchase off-line” method.
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister
Shalom Simhon said the government had made promoting small- and medium-sized
businesses one of its priorities.
The approximately 450,000 SMBs “are the
heart of the economy,” he said.
The government would soon introduce a
bill that would ensure any changes to business regulation take into account how
SMBs are affected, he added.
Simhon compared small- and medium-sized
businesses operating without a website to farmers who operate only within a
specific region. For example, he said, his favorite strawberry producer “has the
tastiest strawberries in the country, but nobody knows about him.”