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Almost two-thirds of companies don't realise their legal responsibilities regarding their employees and electronic communications, a new survey has revealed.

The Chambers Ireland eBusiness Survey 2007 found that only 37 per cent of companies are aware that they are liable for their employees' online activities, and can risk prosecution if their staff engage in unlawful activities using company resources.

The publication also raised concerns about the lack of awareness among employers regarding their obligation to let employees know if they wish to monitor staff emails and files.

Meanwhile, a little over half of companies still don't have their own website and more than 80 per cent of companies are failing to take advantage of online tendering websites. The survey discovered that although 17 per cent of companies access the e-tenders site, only four per cent actually engaged in tendering. The survey put this low figure down to the high cost of sales on tenders and the poor usability of the e-tender websites.

The findings weren't all negative though. The survey revealed that broadband use is growing, with 52 per cent of firms using DSL and 10 per cent using wireless broadband access.

ComReg chairman Mike Byrne said the increased use of broadband by firms was particularly positive, given the role high-speed internet access can play in terms of competitiveness and growing the knowledge economy. He added that broadband was important to the take-up of more advanced and converged communications services in the future, like next generation networks for example.

Mobile phone use is also on the increase, with more than 58 per cent of businesses providing mobile phone services to their employees. However, some 72 per cent do not provide advanced handsets, such as those with 3G capability. Vodafone, meanwhile, remains the biggest mobile operator in the business mobile market.

Despite the fact that 67 per cent of businesses are not interested in a converged communications service, they are becoming more familiar with alternative telecoms solutions. Some 31 per cent of respondents said they have heard of VoIP, a figure that increases to 47 per cent among larger organisations.

Other areas showed very little change, with Eircom remaining the dominant provider of fixed lines to businesses in Ireland. Some four out of five of the 99 per cent of companies with a landline use the incumbent as their main supplier. And although one in four businesses have changed fixed line telephone supplier, a significant amount of these actually changed back to the original provider.

"The results of the eBusiness Survey are a welcome development, showing a high level of internet access and an ongoing movement to embrace broadband," said Dr Chris Coughlan, deputy president of Chambers Ireland.

"The key challenge is supporting SMEs in embracing the opportunities for value-added business growth. Chambers Ireland will be working with SMEs and urges the Government to also play its part in making this vision a reality."

© 2007 ENN

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