Fostering tech entrepreneurs and ‘SMEs’: What can governments do better?

Round_table_SMESmall- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have a critical role to play in driving growth within any economy, especially in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector.

Governments worldwide are becoming aware of this, and are beginning to realize that there is a need to spur domestic ICT innovation to power their economies in a digitalized world.

But how can governments work with SMEs to better foster their growth? What is their role? What type of interventions work best? And how can ITU – as the United Nations specialized agency for ICTs – assist the process?

These questions are a major topic of discussion at the ITU’s Telecom World 2015 event in Budapest, Hungary. They crop up repeatedly in hallway discussions – they come up in panel sessions – and they were the subject of a specific “Government and SME Dialogue” round-table discussion.

While there are no easy answers, the importance of identifying how to implement best practices locally cannot be understated. ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao was forthright as he addressed the round table: “The ICT industry cannot be successful if we don’t cooperate with SMEs.” Others gathered at the table underscored the need for better government programmes to foster SME growth. As one participant put it: “It’s like we’re groping in the dark.”

ITU’s role and the launch of “Emerge

Several event participants from a wide range of public and private sector roles used the various forum sessions of Telecom World 2015 to directly ask that ITU play a key role in enabling – and accelerating – meaningful dialogue between governments and SMEs.

Fitting then that ITU launched the new “Emerge Partnership” on Tuesday, 13 October, Day 2 of the event.

Emerge aims to bring together a core group of stakeholders to provide thought-leadership and best-practice advice to help shape government policy-making. Emerge Partners will be actively engaged in supporting innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems, and include representatives from the United Nations and other international organizations, the ICT industry, incubator/accelerator managers as well as development/innovation practitioners.

Large multinationals, start-ups and SMEs will work together to outline key priorities and requirements for government policy-makers to provide a vital enabling environment for innovation and private enterprise.

To learn more about how Emerge aims to scale entrepreneurship for social impact, please visit the Emerge Partnership website.

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