ICT– including cloud computing and the rise of software-as-a-service – has reduced the cost of innovation and market access, allowing small tech businesses to compete with established industries. This was one of the key findings of the Emerge Publication which was launched today at ITU Telecom World 2016. The publication provides a review of micro, small and medium sized-enterprises in the ICT sector (tech MSMEs), as well as the environment and stakeholders which support these firms to grow and create jobs.
“The future of SMEs will be enabled by ICTs,” said Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General. ”Cloud computing, smart grids, smart metering, reducing energy consumption and much more will be key to the environments that allow SMEs to grow and that, in turn, will be transformed by SMEs.”
The report is the result of an extensive engagement and discussion with a range of actors, including Ministries of ICT, Trade and Industry, national innovation agencies, large multinational companies, academic institutions, business and technology schools, incubators, accelerators, financiers, business mentors, industry associations and MSMEs themselves. It distinguishes tech start-ups and MSMEs within the overall MSME population, describes their symbiotic relationship with the ICT sector and discusses the unique challenges faced and the interventions being applied. The report also highlights why small, young firms in particular are such important drivers of innovation and growth.
Having a dynamic ecosystem of tech MSMEs can create a positive feedback loop in a country’s national ICT sector, and supports acceleration of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The existence of young tech MSMEs can create a critical mass of professionals who produce demand for ICT services, creates a pool of skilled ICT professionals, and can introduce innovative solutions that could be adopted or acquired by larger ICT companies and development agencies.
ICT networks are critical enablers of the tech start-up ecosystem. Emerging economies are recommended to adopt strategies to boost broadband speeds and enhance access. Though mobile is approaching ubiquity, there are still gaps particularly among the poor. This should be remedied particularly since low-income segments stand to benefit so much from social entrepreneurship and start-up services using mobile money. In addition to broadband and mobile networks, young tech MSMEs need other critical Internet infrastructure such as data centres and mobile payment solutions.
Ensuring the survival and internationalization of tech MSMEs requires strong, interconnected and outward-looking ecosystems. The annual ITU Telecom World event convenes national governments, large ICT companies and tech MSMEs, as well as international civil society organizations focusing on ICT access and skills, to showcase the best that each ecosystem has to offer, and provides a platform for businesses to exchange knowledge, develop their business networks, access new markets and scale-up.
About the Emerge Partnership: The Emerge Partnership brings together a network of stakeholders that are working to support local, regional and international innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems, to increase dialogue with government policy-makers and regulators who provide a vital enabling environment for private enterprise.