The COVID-19 pandemic has not only forced businesses to be more engaged with digital technology but also highlighted the digital divide among people who lack of readiness. Many people are struggling in incorporating new technology into their own businesses, especially the MSMEs.
In order to shift to the path of a sustainable and resilient post-pandemic recovery, the challenges faced by MSMEs needs to be addressed. The recovery plan needs to facilitate digital inclusion of MSMEs and support their access to more efficient and innovative technologies. In order to support digital transformation of MSMEs in the Lancang-Mekong region, Mekong Institute (MI), with the support of the People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China, organized the online regional workshop on “Advancing Financial Access and Support Policy to Empower MSMEs’ Digitalization for Inclusive Growth in the Lancang-Mekong Countries” on June 20-22, 2022. The emphasis of this workshop was paid on discuss critical themes for advancing financial access and the determinants that could facilitate growth of digital financial services by highlighting some of the key challenges faced, and the possible solutions to address them in consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are facing the new round of the technological and industrial revolution,” Mr. Ke Yousheng, Permanent Representative of P.R. China, stated the importance of this workshop as he believes that SMEs are the driving force of the national economy. “Countries all over the world are looking for ways to catch the digital pulse, encourage SMEs to accelerate digital transformation, and achieve sustainable, high-quality, and inclusive development."
He also added that “We need to strengthen government policy support and financial investment. Digital transformation of SMEs requires high costs of technological upgrading, which may become barriers to digitalization. Governments should take SMEs’ digital development into account in the overall national development plan and establish diversified and multi-channel financing mechanisms to provide SMEs with more practical and low-cost digital products and services, and help SMEs promote technological innovation and enhance competitiveness.”
This three-day workshop was the third in a series of online workshop which is a part of the project entitled “Fostering Digital Connectivity in the Lancang-Mekong Countries” It was attended by 44 delegates from different sectors, including both public and private, such as government officials from the relevant departments (i.e., Finance, SME Promotion, and Technology & Innovation) and business owners. With this wide range of experience and expertise, the interdisciplinary environment allows the participants to exchange their innovative digital solutions, which could be optimized and applicable in different contexts.