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Making digitalization work for small businesses in Asia

Published 14 June 2022

Policymakers play a critical role in ensuring that development of the digital economy is inclusive. In our recent webinar on digital development, a panel of experts highlight the challenges and opportunities faced by micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) as they adapt to the needs of the fourth industrial revolution

Watch webinar recap:

What are regional governments in Asia doing to facilitate the digital development of their economies? How can digital transformation contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals? This webinar features the perspectives of stakeholders from the trade and MSME community, especially on digital trade, digital development, the challenges faced by small businesses, and how mismatched policies can impede development.

  • Deborah Elms, Founder and Executive Director, Asian Trade Centre, presented the findings of the Asian Trade Centre’s report and highlighted the importance of appropriate guiding policies to ensure that MSMEs do not fall behind. Noting that 103 of 169 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets are influenced by digital technologies and that economic inequality falls when digital skills improve, Elms suggests for MSMEs to leverage digital tools for growth and development.
  • Lau Shih Hor, Chief Executive Officer, Elixir Technology Pte Ltd, pointed out that SMEs are the backbone of Singapore’s economy. According to the government’s definition of SMEs, small firms accounts for 70 percent of employment and represents 99 percent of all enterprises in the country. The challenges of digitalisation faced by SMEs - including the skills gap, financial inclusion, and supply chain risks - are critical to address.
  • Sven Callebaut, Trade and Digital Trade Advisor, Ministry of Commerce, Cambodia, shared the experiences of digital start-ups in Cambodia and the support provided by the Cambodian government. Despite the support, he noted the policy gaps Cambodia can address to fulfil its commitments to economic agreements.
  • Natasha Beschorner, Senior Digital Development Specialist, World Bank, highlighted foundational needs such as connectivity infrastructure and skills as a key focus for the World Bank’s digital development programs in the East Asia and Pacific region. She highlighted digital transformation projects under preparation in Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, and Vietnam.

This session, moderated by Dini Sari Djalal, Associate Director (Editorial) at the Hinrich Foundation, finished with a Q&A for the panel of experts, who also highlighted the dangers of mismatched policies in stifling development, as skepticism towards large digital platforms grows.

The discussion is based on a recent report by the Asian Trade Centre, Making digitalization work for small businesses in Asia.

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