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Online Resilience Hub Empowers Philippine MSMEs

The Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) presented its various projects supporting micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) during the recent online launch of the “Biyaheng Digiskarte” Project. The agency presented SIKAP, Synergising Recovery Initiatives, Knowledge, and Adaptation Practices for MSMEs—a unified online resilience hub that provides information on the latest available loans, programmes, and online events specifically for MSMEs in the Philippines.

SIKAP also offers mentorship opportunities for MSMEs provided by industry leaders and experts, with some tracks focused on digital transformation. SIKAP is in partnership with the United Nations (UN) Development Programme, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the Connecting Business Initiative.

Like SIKAP, the “Biyaheng Digiskarte: Digitalisation of Small Businesses for Recovery and Competitiveness” is a mentoring programme that aims to equip MSMEs with the knowledge and skills in using appropriate digital tools and technologies to aid in their business recovery. It is designed to help individual entrepreneurs, cooperative members and officers, and community-based organisations assess their digital readiness in a time when the digital transformation has become the key to success in the constantly changing circumstances.

They defined “Digiskarte” as the use of digital tools, approaches and innovations in doing business, incorporating gadgets, the Internet, social media, and online platforms in business strategies. This new approach allows MSMEs to expand their customer base and sell their products and services online. It also enables more efficient and cost-effective coordination along the supply chain, streamlining raw materials sourcing, logistics, warehousing, payments, and remote work setups.

One member of the foundation emphasised the need to educate more business owners on using digital technology solutions for complex problems. The use of digital technology is not the only solution, but it is a powerful tool to help MSMEs deal with different problems.

The project will develop learning modules and materials. These will be conducted in various formats: webinars, coaching/mentoring, self-directed exercises, and experience-sharing opportunities with co-mentees. The project will also establish a pool of volunteer expert mentors and establish partnerships with organisations with existing MSME development programmes such as SIKAP, Go Negosyo, Philippine Partnerships for Sustainable Agriculture, and many others.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, the Philippine Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Region 7 recognises the challenges brought by the pandemic which exposed the vulnerabilities of the country’s society in terms of digital access. These vulnerabilities are not new issues, but existing social inequalities such as the digital divide that demand recalibrated solutions. To ensure that workers, entrepreneurs, and enterprises pull through the current challenges, the agency is aware of the need to address these gaps that hinder the drive towards inclusive growth and innovation.

According to a recent report from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), around 4 million Filipinos or 8.7% of the workforce remained unemployed as of January 2021, leaving a dent in the productivity of the country. To combat this, the DICT aims to equip the labour force with new skills through various upskilling and capacity-building initiatives enabled by information and communications technology.

DTI-7 Director said the collaborative initiative will help promote digital opportunities for both displaced workers, entrepreneurs, and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and business enterprises in the area. With TESDA’s reach and resources, the agencies hope to expand the coverage of upskilling programmes such as the DICT’s DigitalJobsPH.

Accordingly, the DICT through its DigitalJobsPH project is offering various free online technical training tracks on information and communications technology (ICT) to provide alternative learning opportunities for the working population whose livelihoods were adversely affected by the COVID-19 crisis. DICT Secretary said the participation of MSMEs from affected sectors is encouraged to boost their skills development during the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon and other parts of the country.

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