Just before the Coronavirus pandemic struck the Papua Province, highlighting the importance of having an online presence, 35 business owners received training on website development and the like as part of a private sector development programme.
In greater and greater numbers, people are accessing information, connecting with one another, and shopping online. While the numbers of internet users in the global South remains lower than those in the global North, it is estimated that 47% of people in the developing world are online. For entrepreneurs, therefore, marketing their products and services using online platforms can be vital to the long-term success of their businesses.
Indonesia is a particularly good example of this trend: with a population of some 267 million people and an internet penetration rate of 53%, the country represents one of the largest online marketplaces in the world – and is slated to continue adding new internet users at a rapid pace over the upcoming decade. To seize on this opportunity, the Green Economic Growth (GEG) programme in Papua Province facilitated and hosted the Papua Digital Marketing Training for 35 young Papuan entrepreneurs on March 17-19. The programme, funded by the UK Climate Change Unit (UKKCU), seeks to promote sustainable economic development in the private sector to address climate change and deliver equitable growth.
The programme seeks to encourage and help businesses in the green economy scale up and grow, yielding positive environmental and economic benefits.
The training was oversubscribed, with 67 applicants requesting to participate, demonstrating the appetite among the entrepreneurial community for help with these types of tools. Beyond the interested business owners, the provincial and local governments supported the initiative as well, appreciating the beneficial impact on the local economy, and the Head of Commerce, Industry, SMEs, and Cooperatives for the Province of Papua, Mr. Omah Laduani Lademay, also attended.
The knowledge from the training was put to use quickly as multiple product websites were set up by attendees (such as this one for Reymay, selling original Papuan handcrafts). Technical skills including creating websites and navigating the process of setting up an online store were the basis of the training, but the importance of brand-building was also emphasised.
The training brought concrete technical skills related to website development and e-commerce within reach of the participants.
Yan Frederik Pepuho, one of the attendees, spoke about the impact of the training for his café Phondabee (website here):
The digitalisation of business and services has been helpful for the owners of small-scale businesses to cope with this situation right now, as well as in future. The knowledge and skill gained from practicing directly on a digital platform were inspiring to all of us here in Papua. As youth entrepreneurs of start-up businesses, we became more confident. It proves that while there are challenges, there are also opportunities.
As the world confronts the unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus pandemic, the importance of e-commerce has been underscored even further, as measures like social distancing and stay-at-home orders reduce foot traffic to businesses. In light of the pandemic, a digital presence for entrepreneurs in developing countries becomes even more important – and promising from a business perspective. Innovators who are prepared to step in and meet online demand will not only preserve their business but give it a leg up on the competition.