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More than 1.5 million businesses in the UK still don’t have a website. This needs to change. “Encouraging more businesses to seize the opportunities the internet offers is particularly important now that the economy is growing again,” comments Lord Mandelson.

Google has teamed up with BT, e-skills UK, Enterprise UK, Google, the IoD and PayPal to launch Getting British Business Online (GBBO), which will help entrepreneurs create their first website in just 15 minutes.

While the government-backed initiative has created a backlash among the independent website development community, Simon Kimber of Brighton-based website creation service Create.net says he "rejects claims it will be bad for the UK market". “Realistically it was always a matter of when, and not if, Google was going to enter this space," he comments. "It’s a natural progression for the sector. This scheme suits businesses without a website, those who would only consider a ‘free’ one, or are highly inexperienced in terms of digital marketing. Once they are ready to take off the training wheels, services like ours will be there to help them take their online presence to the next level.”

Through the GBBO scheme, businesses will be given a free .co.uk web address and can pick a website style from a variety of templates. New websites will be included in Google’s search index and added as a business listing in Google maps.

The other partners are doing their bit, too: BT’s offering free advice and phone support; PayPal will help SMEs sell online and accept payments; and e-skills UK has developed an IT qualification so entrepreneurs can develop their online skills.

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