Beyond COVID-19: Advancing Digital Business Transformation in the Eastern Partner Countries
Digital technologies have spread rapidly in recent years and found new applications in many dimensions of our societies, whether in health, education, communication, the business sector or in the delivery of government services. The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated these trends and digital solutions have helped households, firms and the public sector cope with repeated lockdowns and continue their operations. In the process of digital adoption, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) face a clear opportunity to introduce fundamental changes to the way they do business, experiment with new technologies and ultimately increase productivity. Nevertheless, digitalisation comes with its own specific set of challenges, such as widening inequalities caused by digital divides and there is an important role for policy to play to create an enabling environment that helps SMEs succeed on their digital journeys.
This report analyses the current state of digitalisation in the Eastern Partner countries and presents a “blueprint” for policy makers to design the building blocks of policy instruments to support the digital transformation of businesses in the Eastern Partner (EaP) countries. It has been developed in the context of the “EU4Business: From Policies to Action” project with funding from the European Union, Poland and Romania.
Policy makers, in their reform efforts in support of the digital transformation of SMEs in the EaP countries, should consider to design policy measures around the following building blocks:
- An implementing agency should act as a “digital one-stop-shop” for businesses willing to advance their digital transformation and with the objective of providing information and raising awareness of the benefits of digitalisation.
- To help SMEs navigate the complexity of the digitalisation process, while bearing in mind industry-specific needs, policy makers should develop and provide sector-specific digital plans listing recommendations for suitable digital solutions, fundamental business capabilities needed, and available digital training.
- In order to assess their level of digital maturity and receive ad hoc recommendations, SMEs should be able to undergo a digital self-assessment via a self-diagnostic tool.
- To facilitate SMEs in understanding and achieving their digital capacity building needs, EaP countries can build a reliable network of certified consultants and advisors as well as ensure tailored training opportunities are available.
- Policy makers should provide financial support for digitalisation through a palette of instruments such as grants, vouchers, loans, and indirect financial incentives.
- Finally, policy makers should nurture and co-ordinate the ecosystem for digital transformation, composed by all agents and stakeholders supporting SME development (e.g. incubators, high-tech parks, digital innovation hubs, universities) to maximise the impact of the existing structures.
Moreover, endeavours to support SME digitalisation should be complemented by broader efforts to strengthen the overall framework conditions for the digital economy (digital infrastructure, digital security, regulations and market conditions, skills) which are further detailed in the report.
Draft agenda of high-level launch event - 30 November 2021
With the financial support of: