Digital for SMEs Global initiative, 11 March 2021


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

Transcript of video message
Paris, Thursday 11 March 2021

Small businesses and entrepreneurs around the world are bearing the heavy burden of the COVID-19 crisis. SMEs in OECD countries account on average for around 75% of all jobs in the sectors most affected by thepandemic.

For many of these businesses, going digital has been the only way of surviving.

We witnessed many inspiring and successful stories from entrepreneurs that have used e-commerce to save their businesses and even reach new markets. Others developed new digital content to support home education and entertainment, supporting businesses, and the wellbeing of society as a whole.

However, for many SMEs going digital so widely and abruptly was new, and difficult.

Many SMEs still lack even basic digital skills and tools. Half as many small firms in OECD countries use cloud computing as large firms. Small firms are also half as likely to sell online as large firms. Moreover, when they do sell online, small firms tend to use their own website, rather than e-marketplaces, missing out on opportunities to benefit from network effects and access digital services, such as data analytics.

Going digital is a huge step for business entrepreneurs and their SMEs. Supporting them in this endeavour will go a long way both for them, and for the growth of the private sector. Our challenge now is to build on and accelerate this trend, and help all SMEs tackle the many barriers they face on their digital journey.

That is why our Digital for SMEs initiative is so important. It does exactly that. It brings together large and small firms, governments and International Organisations in a genuine partnership to support SMEs in their digital transition.

It is an initiative for SMEs, but more importantly it is an initiative with SMEs, and I have been delighted to see many more of them join us in this mission since the Initiative was launched in 2019. And it is only the beginning!

Their experiences have inspired and informed our new OECD report on “The Digital Transformation of SMEs”. In the report we look at SMEs’ digital uptake, at their digital security, at their use of online platforms and at the impact of new technologies such as AI and Blockchain.

We know the barriers SMEs face. We know that a large percentage of them is still held back by a lack of internal resources, awareness and skills, financing constraints and / or inadequate infrastructure.

These barriers and risks cannot be tackled by SMEs alone. Policymakers, large and small businesses, professionals, associations, and education and training institutions all play an important role. Forward thinking governments have already established measures to support SMEs with the digital transition, which our report widely explores and explains.

The state of our SMEs reflects the state of our economies. We need to use this global crisis as an opportunity to makethe necessary changes. It is time to step up policy ambitions to build forward better; time to harness the transformation and the digital future we want. And there will be no fair and sustainable digital transition without SMEs.


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