Go Digital ASEAN to develop digital skills to unlock new economic opportunities

The ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME) and The Asia Foundation have come together, to launch the Go Digital ASEAN initiative. 
July 18, 2020 | 07:23
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The Go Digital ASEAN initiative will help 200,000 people across ASEAN to improve their businesses. Photo: Khmer Times

Supported by a $3.3 million grant from Google.org, the initiative is designed to equip 200,000 people – of which 60 percent will be women and 40 percent men – with crucial digital skills and tools to expand their economic opportunities across ASEAN member states and minimise the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A joint statement issued in Indonesia late June 2020 said this is ACCMSME’s first private-public initiative and a unique effort to partner with civil society and the corporate sectors on this scale.

Digital integration can bridge the digital divide to create a more inclusive Asean region.

Asia Foundation President David Arnold said the foundation is pleased to activate this first-of-its-kind collaboration – pooling expertise and approaches from government, business, and non-governmental sectors – to help bridge the digital gap.

“In villages and secondary cities across the region, the Asia Foundation’s local country offices will lead a community network of trainers and volunteers to help integrate MSME owners and underemployed workers into the digital economy".

"Digital training will be customised to local needs, conditions and contexts,” he said.

Ms. Stephanie Davis, Managing Director at Google Southeast Asia, shared, “Small businesses are at the heart of every country’s economy and community. The current difficult circumstances have reinforced the urgency of supporting their digitization. The Asia Foundation and ACCMSME share our passion to help local businesses succeed, grow and create opportunity for local economies. This grant builds upon our initiatives that focus on skills training in the region and reflect our commitment and investment in the region.”

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Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises are the target groups of this initiative. Photo: south-south galaxy

The programme aims to address the rising unemployment rate in Asian country members and expand economic opportunity across Asean to minimise the negative impacts of Covid-19 by helping enterprises learn about programmes or assistance to continue operating during the pandemic.

COVID-19 is a significant threat to Asean’s small and micro-entrepreneurs, accounting for 99 percent of businesses and 80 percent of the workforce. Although lockdowns have eased in many cities, social distancing is pushing more businesses online.

In Cambodia, the selected implementing partners, development innovations, inSTEDD iLab Southeast Asia and STAR Kampuchea, will utilize part of the funding to develop digital literacy training modules for 15,000 MSMEs owners across the Phnom Penh municipality and Svay Rieng, Kampong Cham, Kampong Speu, Takeo, Siem Reap, and Battambang provinces.

The goal is to train small business owners on important digital skills such as effective marketing on social media, registering businesses on Google Maps and online safety.

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Go Digital ASEAN initiative Cambodia. Photo: b2b-cambodia

In Brunei, the Go Digital Asean initiative will deliver training to youth and business owners to gain the skills to open up markets for their products, craft their own digital marketing campaigns and provide them with tools to monitor and adapt marketing campaigns.

Digital training will be customised to the country’s needs, conditions and contexts. Local implementing partners will utilise part of the funding to develop digital literacy training modules for 4,000 micro-entrepreneurs and underemployed youth, including those from ethnic minorities and with disabilities.

The goal is to instil entrepreneurial and digital literacy skills to encourage the target audience to start their own businesses and expand their ventures. Training will be held in Brunei-Muara, Belait, Tutong, and Temburong districts.

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DARe CEO, Javed Ahmad giving his remarks during the launching ceremony of Go Digital ASEAN in Brunei. Photo: The Bruneian

ASEAN, the world’s fifth-largest economy, is moving towards greater economic integration yet is severely constrained by an expanding digital divide. This divide will only deepen in the Covid-19 pandemic and severely impact ASEAN’s micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Today, MSMEs account for 99% of businesses in key sectors of most ASEAN economies. MSMEs and underemployed workers are closely connected. To be successful, MSMEs need access to more digitally literate workers. For underemployed workers from rural areas and recent graduates, MSMEs are their best option for future employment. Targeting disadvantaged communities across ASEAN, the Go Digital ASEAN initiative is designed to equip MSMEs and the emerging workforce, particularly those in rural and isolated areas, with digital skills and tools; expand economic opportunity across ASEAN countries; and minimize the negative impact from the Covid-19 crisis. The project will reach up to 200,000 underserved people and rural micro-enterprises across the region, including 60% women and 40% youth (ages 15–35). Leveraging The Asia Foundation’s on-ground networks, the initiative will bring critical digital skills training directly to those who need it the most.

Working with local partners in Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam, the USD$3.3 million grant from Google.org will broaden participation in the digital economy to include groups that have the most to gain from digital literacy skills and online safety awareness. Amidst the Covid-19 crisis, this initiative will also be a mechanism for helping MSMEs to learn about programs or assistance that can help them continue to operate during the Covid-19 crisis.

(Source: asean.org)

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ASEAN and The Asia Foundation, with Support from Google.org, Collaborate to Equip 200,000 Micro and Small Enterprises with Digital Skills and Tools Amidst the Covid-19 Crisis. Photo: Asia Today
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