Almost a fifth of small and medium enterprises in Ireland still do not have any online presence, according to a new survey.

The study also found that a quarter of small businesses that do not have a website are being kept offline due to poor broadband.

The ‘dot ie Digital Health Index’ was commissioned by the IE Domain Registry, the body responsible for the management and administration of Ireland’s official Internet address, and was carried out by Ignite Research.

It analysed the online presence of 500 small and medium Irish businesses, including their websites, social media accounts and apps, and also surveyed 1,000 consumers.

It found the proportion of firms with no web visibility has fallen from almost a quarter nine months ago to a fifth in April of this year.

The percentage of organisations with a website is up slightly, as is the number who can sell online - although overall the proportion of enterprises with a web sales ability remains low at 19%.

Of the almost one-fifth who are still not on the web at all, over half said they did not intend to go online in the near future.

Two-thirds said there was no need to do so in their industry, and one third said they did not have enough time to do so.

Poor broadband infrastructure was also cited by a quarter of the firms as being a reason for being offline.

But the research suggests that by not having a web presence, small businesses are missing out.

Three quarters of the consumers surveyed said they found it extremely frustrating when a business they want to interact with is invisible online, with a similar number saying a company that has a web presence is more likely to get their business.

Facebook is the most popular social media platform for small businesses, with 48% of firms saying they had a page, notably higher than the fifth of companies who are on Twitter.

In a statement, IEDR chief executive David Curtin said in 20th Century terms, being a business without a web presence is like being ex-directory.

"Irish consumers spent €6.5bn online in 2015, and they are more than happy to look abroad for products if they can’t get them here," he said.

"Indeed, the research for the dot ie Digital Health Index found that only a minority of Irish SMEs’ websites can take sales orders online and even fewer can process payments. This is a glaring missed opportunity."