Using technology to stimulate innovation and development among small-scale enterprises in the Pacific
Formal and informal small-scale enterprises are a critical component of the economy and provide livelihoods for many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. They also represent important sites of resilience, dynamism, and innovation. However, the development of small-scale enterprises and by extension the potential to enhance the economic welfare of those at the base of the economic pyramid, is often constrained due to a range of disadvantages they face. These barriers include a lack of organisational capacity and human resources; low bargaining power with customers and suppliers; and limited access to financing, support structures and wider markets. In the Pacific these challenges are further exacerbated by local conditions such as remote geographies and low population densities that prohibit enterprise growth.
As the region seeks to navigate the economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, revitalisation of the small-scale enterprises sector represents an opportunity for economic recovery and capacity building. The role of technology is gaining greater attention as a potential solution to support the growth and development of Pacific entrepreneurs.
UNDERSTANDING PACIFIC ENTREPRENEURS AND EXPLORING POTENTIAL TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS
With funding from the Foundation for Development Cooperation (FDC), the Griffith Asia Institute has partnered with the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and ACCESS Advisory to research and pilot test methodologies for creating growth-oriented small-scale enterprises through digital technology. Working closely with the Development Banks of Samoa, Solomon Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the project will identify opportunities for technology to enhance access to education and human capital and strengthen enterprise incubation and acceleration across the Pacific region. Implemented over a 2-year period, the project will provide practical solutions for development practitioners and government agencies across the Pacific region to enhance their level of support for entrepreneurs.
PHASE 1: EXAMINING THE CURRENT ENVIRONMENT
The first phase of the project will focus primarily on gathering and analysing data from three Pacific Island countries (Samoa, Solomon Islands and Federated States of Micronesia). Through a series of interviews with local institutions and surveys administered to both potential and established small-scale entrepreneurs, the research team will gather important insights on how certain behaviours among entrepreneurs impact their ability to address development constraints, what support mechanisms currently exist for entrepreneurs, and where there are opportunities for technology to play a larger role.
PHASE 2: PILOT TESTING
Based on the findings of the first phase of the project, a technology-focused intervention will be designed and tested in the field. The intervention will be designed specifically to support key elements needed for small-scale enterprise growth and development; namely access to education and access to human capital. It is anticipated that the intervention will serve as a proof of concept that local organisations could easily adopt and replicate for broader impact.
Shawn Hunter is the Industry Fellow and Director, Inclusive Growth Programs at the Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University.
PROGRAM PARTNERS AND SUPPORTERS