DARe CEO, Javed Ahmad giving his remarks during the launching ceremony of Go Digital ASEAN on Thursday. Image: Rafidah Hamit

Go Digital ASEAN, a platform to aid youth and business owners through training in various aspects, was launched on Thursday during a country launch and press conference hosted by Darussalam Enterprise (DARe).

The regional programme by the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (ACCMSME), the Asia Foundation, supported by Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, will consort with two local implementing partners, Big BWN Project and Young Entrepreneurs’ Association of Brunei (YEAB).

Under this initiative, digital training will be held and customised to the particular country’s needs, conditions and contexts.

For Brunei, the local collaborators will deliver training to youth and business owners in all four districts to acquire skills in various areas namely to open up markets for their products, craft their own digital marketing campaigns while providing them with tools to monitor and adapt marketing campaigns.

Additionally, the implementing partners will employ part of the funding to develop digital literacy training modules for 4,000 micro-entrepreneurs and underemployed youth including those from ethnic minorities and those with disabilities.

“The goal is to instil entrepreneurial and digital literacy skills to encourage the target audience to start their own businesses and expand their current ventures,” read a press statement.

(L-R) Two local implementing partners, Noorhafizah of Big BWN Project, Fatin of YEAB and DARe’s Head of Business Advisory and Services as Head of ACCMSME Brunei Darussalam, Norlela Suhailee. Image: Rafidah Hamit

YEAB President Fatin Ariffin said the project came at a very strategic time where businesses are forced to shift digitally.

“With the pandemic, many businesses are forced to rethink their current business model and their digital readiness out of necessity as COVID-19 has challenged the status quo of doing things so we are seeing numerous interest amongst MSMEs to be more digitally ready and savvy.”

“Additionally as the government has launched the Digital Economy master plan entailing Brunei’s plan to move into a smart nation which requires industries to adopt and integrate digitisation into their businesses thus there is a massive opportunity to support digitalisation amongst MSMEs given the huge gap that exists,” added the president.

According to Fatin, YEAB recently conducted a baseline study and survey with MSMEs since May and identified that one of the significant obstacles to digitalisation is digital literacy.

“(This means their) own understanding of what digitalisation entails due to the lack of exposure and know-how as well as accessible resources.”

“Therefore we hope that by the end of the programme in June 2021 we can come to realise a roadmap for MSMEs digitalisation that could help entrepreneurs use as a guideline or pathway for digitalisation. Our hope is to move MSMEs understanding of digitalisation beyond just social media.”

YEAB along with several key partners including Google Developers Group Brunei, Maven’s Hive and Entrepreneurship Innovation Community Outreach (EICO) will be developing a series of programmes aimed at promoting MSMEs shift and adoption towards digitalisation while reaching out to various levels of MSMEs.

“We are also working to engage with the relevant government agencies and key corporate partners to establish collaboration opportunities aimed at creating impact and driving adoption of technology across industries,” said Fatin.

Country Representative of Malaysia of The Asia Foundation, Herizal Hazri gave his remarks virtually through Zoom. Image: Rafidah Hamit

“Our plan is to roll out a year-long campaign through social media focusing on ‘Empowering digital adoption of MSMEs’ and tying it with various programmes that we will be rolling out with our key partners,” she added.

Meanwhile, training under Big BWN Project will target 2000 underemployed youths, 450 individuals from marginalised communities and indigenous groups and 50 from individuals with disabilities from the ages of 18 to 35.

Founder Noorhafizah Hj Rashid said the start-up has enlisted several stakeholders to run the programme with them including Nisai Brunei, Pakar Tenaga Bersatu, BAH Digital, Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry (AITI), Comquest Brunei, BruCERT, Projek Feed and Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE) as the strategic partner.

“We will also be supported by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) and the Science, Technology and Environment Partnership (STEP) Centre of the Ministry of Education (MoE) to run this project successfully across the nation.”

Big BWN Project aims to conduct the project nationwide from August until June 2021 over a series of eight workshops for the unemployed youths and eight projects for the marginalised communities.

“We will also be working with relevant parties who are specialised in working with people with disabilities for this project.”

DARe CEO, Javed Ahmad said the programme reflects the enterprises’ commitment in providing and supporting digitalisation during a time of need, as DARe is the country’s focal agency representative to ACCMSME

“(This) is at a time when our country and the world is facing a devastating global pandemic that has put economies to a halt.”

“The importance of digital technology and tools has always been recognised to bridge the digital divide to create globally competitive, resilient and innovative MSMEs which is very much aligned with Brunei Darussalam’s effort to promote digitalisation,” he added.

Go Digital ASEAN is made possible with a grant of USD3.3 million from Google.org.

The launch was officiated by Permanent Secretary (Industry), Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE), Pg Hjh Zety Sufina Pg Dato Hj Sani. Image: Rafidah Hamit

The programme is designed to equip crucial digital skills and tools to 200,000 people and MSMEs across ASEAN member states including 60 per cent women and 40 per cent youth from rural regions and underserved communities.

At the same time, Go Digital ASEAN intends to address the rising unemployment rate in Brunei while expanding economic opportunity across ASEAN to minimise the negative impacts of COVID-19 by aiding enterprises to learn about programmes or assistance that can help them continue to operate during the pandemic.

Following a region-wide announcement on June 22, the Go Digital ASEAN initiative marks ACCMSME’s first private-public initiative and effort to partner with civil society and the corporate sector at this scale.

It also demonstrates the synergy and partnership with non-government bodies in supporting the implementation of the Action Agenda on Digitalisation of ASEAN MSMEs, which also contributes to ACCMSME’s goal of “globally competitive and innovative MSMEs” under the ASEAN Strategic Plan for SME Development (SAP SMED) 2016-2025.

The launch was officiated by Permanent Secretary (Industry), Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE), Pg Hjh Zety Sufina Pg Dato Hj Sani.

Also in attendance was DARe’s Head of Business Advisory and Services as Head of ACCMSME Brunei Darussalam, Norlela Suhailee.

Country Representative of Malaysia of The Asia Foundation, Herizal Hazri, Country Head Google and Representative of Google.org, Marc Woo and Programme Consultant of The Asia Foundation, Qistina Kamaruddin were also present virtually for the ceremony.

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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