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BRANDING NEWS: Google leads initiative to get 100,000 UK businesses online

A consortium including BT, Google and PayPal have a launched an ambitious initiative to get 100,000 businesses online by the end of 2010.

The Institute of Directors, e-skills and Enterprise UK are joining the companies in the Getting British Business Online project to help small businesses create a free professional website and find relevant training and support.

GBBO says that despite operating in one of the most advanced e-commerce markets in the world with over 40 million people now online, as many as 1.5 million businesses in the UK do not have a website.

Central to the initiative is a new 'wizard' tool that businesses can use to create their first website in around 15 minutes. Businesses will be given a free web address and can choose a website from a variety of templates to suit their business needs.

New websites will be included in Google's search index and added as a business listing in Google maps. Businesses will also be shown the tools with which to promote their new websites.

BT will offer businesses free advice and phone support to help them create an effective online presence, and in the next couple of months PayPal will enable businesses with a GBBO-powered website to turn their site into an ecommerce platform.

However Lord Mandelson, who is endorsing the campaign, has been accused of promoting multinational companies over UK software start-ups who could provide a similar service to small businesses. Mandelson had said he was not suggesting that Google was the only player in the market.

Matt Brittin, UK managing director, Google, said: "With over 40 million people in the UK now online there has never been a better time for small businesses to use the Internet, enabling them to reach new customers in new markets.  We hope a free, easy-to-create website will give small businesses the boost they need to get up and running online."