US extends helping hand to Philippines for MSMEs’ digitalization

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has tied up with the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations Business Council (US-ABC), and US Agency for International Development (USAID) to launch an upgraded online learning platform that aims to help micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) accelerate business recovery.

Trade Undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba said the ASEAN SME Academy 2.0 or one-stop shop platform for online training and information resource, which aims to provide training and mentorship to enhance ASEAN MSMEs’ capabilities to grow and compete, has been upgraded.

“ASEAN SME Academy 2.0 could help facilitate the digital transformation of MSMEs and accelerate a broader economic recovery to achieve a more inclusive and sustainable post pandemic future in the ASEAN region,” Aldaba said.

The academy was established in 2015 through a joint initiative between US-ABC, USAID, and the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on MSMEs.

The platform is co-administered by the DTI, through the Bureau of Small and Medium Enterprise Development (BSMED) and the Philippine Trade Training Center and PTTC, with the US-ABC.

Its new features include localized courses on a variety of topics, multi-language support feature, new visual and mobile friendly interface, top online resource for MSMEs and self-certification.

Aldaba said there is a need for ASEAN MSMEs to embrace digital transformation and innovation in order to accelerate economic recovery and achieve a more inclusive and sustainable post pandemic future in the region.

Data from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) showed that MSMEs serve as the backbone of the ASEAN economies as the sector accounts for over 90 percent of all businesses in the region and contribute 67 percent of the total labor force from 2010 to 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital economy and technologies which are changing the way goods and services are produced and consumed are creating advantages for MSMEs, as well as opportunities to cater to a bigger customer base.

In the Philippines, Aldaba said part of the government’s industrial policy is to develop innovative MSMEs by preparing them for the entry of new technologies and equipping them with the right tools, mindset and resources to take advantage of the opportunities in the digital economy.

Based on a technology utilization survey conducted by the DTI, Aldaba added MSMEs have cited lack of financial capability and unfamiliarity on how to implement the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies, as well as the lack of skills, knowledge and expertise to plan and implement their digital transformation strategies as barriers to the adoption of Industry 4.0.

With the enhanced features and functionalities of the ASEAN SME Academy 2.0, Aldaba explained that the platform could tremendously help MSMEs shift to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“The ASEAN SME Academy 2.0 ensures that we continue to embrace a people-centered digital transformation through customized entrepreneurial training courses and platforms for business linkages and networking,” she said.

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