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Exploring digital opportunities

Danial Norjidi

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in collaboration with Google and the International Trade Centre (ITC) recently launched a programme to support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the ASEAN region.

As a statement on the ICC website explains, a recent report by ICC and Google titled MSME Digital Exports in Southeast Asia – A study of MSME digital exports in 10 ASEAN markets found that MSMEs in ASEAN have a relatively low participation in regional trade relative to their economic importance, and 60 per cent of these firms have a strong interest in expanding their activities to new markets in the region.

“Yet, to be able to take advantage of new opportunities in the region, over 75 per cent of MSMEs surveyed voiced their needs for tailored support to increase their skills and capabilities in digital marketing and in leveraging digital tools and technologies to access market information,” said the statement.

“In response, the ICC, in collaboration with Google and the ITC, has launched the Digital Export Enablement Programme (DEEP) for ASEAN Small Business to help MSMEs from across ASEAN member states grow their business internationally, by equipping them with digital export-relevant skills.”

The statement notes that this programme aims to support 1,000 MSMEs in the ASEAN region by equipping them with digital export-relevant skills.

“By delivering a series of trainings, access to digital platforms and practical workshops/sessions that will strengthen the capacity of MSMEs from 10 ASEAN markets, DEEP aims to facilitate a unique cross-border entrepreneurial journey for small businesses from Southeast Asia.”

ICC further noted that the programme will guide small businesses, from identifying and comparing trade opportunities, understanding market access conditions, exploring trade finance options and the incoterms governing contracts, to sharpening their skills in digital marketing and successfully growing their business through e-commerce channels.

It was also shared that DEEP will be implemented with the support of the ICC Global Centres of Entrepreneurship in Southeast Asia (CoE Jakarta Hub), as well as partnering business support organisations and government ministries, and will benefit MSMEs from the 10 ASEAN member states. Partners also include the ICC Academy.

ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO said, “This is a landmark programme for ICC Centres of Entrepreneurship in Asia-Pacific, a practical resource that will take SMEs to the next level. It will help SMEs from the ASEAN region increase their footprint in regional and global trade through the use of digital-export related tools made available by ICC CoE Jakarta, in collaboration with Google and the International Trade Centre.”

“By launching this programme, we are helping SME owners, families and communities from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam,” he added.

Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Policy at Google Karan Bhatia said, “Digital technologies are creating opportunities for small businesses to trade and reach international markets in ways impossible a generation ago, but those opportunities are not always easy to seize. Google is excited to collaborate with the ICC and the ITC to develop the DEEP training curriculum to help address this gap in ASEAN – and better enable MSMEs to fully benefit from the growing digital economy.”

In addition, ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton said, “Small businesses in Southeast Asia need targeted training to identify, understand and use digital tools to expand to new markets in the region – and this collaboration with Google and ICC is designed to do that. Digital connectivity matters for development, and we have to invest in it if we’re serious about achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The statement proceeds to note that the programme will be delivered in two phases, where in phase 1, there will be a training of trainers. This will be followed up by the training of small businesses in phase 2.

“The curriculum is designed on the main challenges and opportunities identified in the 2022 survey on MSME Digital Exports in Southeast Asia conducted by ICC and Google. The programme is free of charge.” The statement added that interested trainers and small businesses can know more about the programme and apply online, latest by midnight, March 20.

The earlier mentioned MSME Digital Exports in Southeast Asia report surveyed 1,560 MSMEs in the 10 ASEAN markets (including Brunei Darussalam).

Among the study’s key insights was that MSMEs in the ASEAN markets expressed a strong interest in exporting in the region and internationally, where over 60 per cent of surveyed enterprises are looking to expand their export footprint.

The report also found that MSMEs in the ASEAN markets have drastically increased their use of digital tools and technologies, with 80 per cent of surveyed enterprises having expanded their use of digital tools in the past two years. Furthermore, 70 per cent of surveyed MSMEs in the ASEAN markets see digital tools and technologies as a way to identify access new markets.

Another key insight was that MSMEs in the ASEAN markets continue to be hampered by significant Internet coverage and affordability gaps. “Some 65 per cent of surveyed MSMEs reported issues with Internet accessibility (patchy service or slow connection) and affordability.”

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