Bring SMEs to the global arena – UN-ITU chief
CEBU CITY, Philippines – The secretary-general of the United Nation's International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said that the specialized agency, along with big and able private organizations and companies worldwide should do more to bring small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to the international stage.
Information and communications technology (ICT) development is not only for big enterprises but for SMES as well, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said in his keynote address at the opening of the 3-day Digital Strategies for Development Summit 2015 on Tuesday, September 22, in Cebu City.
He cited the often mentioned fact that SMEs are a major contributor to a country like the Philippines' gross domestic product (GDP) growth. Zhao even acknowledged governments around the world for focusing on SMEs.
For instance, one of 4 pillars of this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation's (APEC) – hosted by the Philippines this year – is to advance specific and concrete interventions to promote the participation of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in regional and global markets, either through global value chains or as direct exporters of finished goods and services. (READ: DTI chief makes final push for MSMEs initiatives)
Yet despite the efforts, SMEs are not receiving the attention that they deserve in the global arena, Zhao pointed out.
Thus, SMEs need to be on the international platform to share their ideas, to learn best practices from bigger companies or enabling organizations, and benefit from innovation through collaborative efforts, he said.
In particular, startups in the ICT sector are more involved, more attuned to drive innovation and help address the critical needs of the people in their country.
They also have a major impact on global, regional, and national economies as a main source of new jobs, especially jobs for the youth, Zhao said.
Zhao, who started his 4-year term as UN-ITU secretary general in January, makes it his mandate to bring SMEs, the young entrepreneurs from developing countries, into the ITU fold.
Involving also the academia is a way to engage talented young researchers and students in the work of ITU, he added.
"The youth is also a focus for ITU, [as we aim] to give majority of them employment," Zhao said.
He said the youth must be equipped with digital skills to make them employable. In particular, developing countries should also focus more on empowering women entrepreneurs, by enabling them with digital skills.
Zhao shared that the ITU Telecom World to be held in Budapest, Hungary, from October 12 to 15 this year will focus on the critical role of SMEs and entrepreneurs in driving innovation.
The ITU Telecom World will also provide a unique international platform for influential figures from government and industry to connect with these innovators, to explore partnership solutions, investment opportunities, and to share ideas and best practices.
Zhao also earlier said there are also many ways that ICTs can make the world a better place, particularly for developing countries which can use technology to overcome hurdles in education, health care, environmental sustainability, agricultural management, and many other areas.
"It will be ITU's important and exciting job to help the community it serves to best meet these challenges," Zhao earlier said. – Rappler.com