Google has announced a tie-up with the Welsh government that will see it push for thousands of firms across Wales to get online and boost their business.

The Internet giant says that the year-long project is the first time Google has committed to an on-the-ground programme of this magnitude anywhere in the UK – and in fact, it’s Google’s first major visit to Wales.

The initiative is designed to kick-start Wales’s economy, and Getting Welsh Business Online will give around one thousand free consultations and e-skills workshops – using online education modules – to help Welsh firms set up a website or otherwise enhance their existing online presence.

As of today, business-owners in Wales can sign up for the free events, and Google gurus will tour the country in the Google ‘Juice Bar’ giving one-to-one lessons on how to drive traffic to websites and increase business online. It kicks off in Cardiff on 6 March.

Last September we reported on a similar Google initiative in Kenya, however the Internet giant got itself in hot water as it attempted to help get Kenyan businesses online.

The issue centered around Mocality Kenya, the country’s “largest business directory,” and its 170,000 verified business listings that it makes available to citizens. Google decided it would use Mocality’s comprehensive database to try and boost its new service — and Mocality Kenya started receiving calls from confused business owners asking for help with their websites. Mocality had never offered and did not provide websites for business owners. Wondering what was happening, the company decided to check its server logs to see whether someone was scraping business listings and calling them directly. Which, indeed, was happening.

As the BBC reports today, it’s thought that up to 40% of small Welsh firms don’t have a website yet, and the Welsh government is ramping up its efforts to encourage businesses to tap digital technology to “innovate, grow and access new markets”.