Asia is the world’s fastest growing economic region, and one of the key contributors that drive this is the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, which also serves as the backbone for developing Asian economies.The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) recently held the APEC SME Ministerial Meeting 2013 at Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, from 2 to 7 September to facilitate discussions about developing the entrepreneurship environment and enhancing global competitiveness among SMEs across the region.Indonesia itself exemplifies the issues. According to Access to Trade and Growth of Women’s SMEs in APEC Developing Economies: Evaluating the Business Environment in Indonesia by The Asian Foundation, SMEs account for approximately 57 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and over 96 percent of Indonesia’s workforce.Microsoft Indonesia was invited by Indonesia’s Ministry of Cooperatives and SME to be part of the event, which was comprised of seminars, workshops and training on the use of information and communication technology (ICT). Microsoft’s General Manager for Small and Medium Solutions and Partners in Asia Pacific, Stanimira Koleva, and Asia Citizenship Lead, Clair Deevy, spoke at the sessions ‘Challenges Faced in ASEAN SMEs’ and ‘Doing Business the SME Way’ respectively. Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs for Southeast Asia Astrid Tuminez spoke on the topic ‘Women and Entrepreneurship in ASEAN’, an issue of high priority at this year’s meeting, which later issued the first joint statement on empowering women-run SMEs.The meeting also provided Microsoft Indonesia a platform to promote YouthSpark, an initiative that equips youth with the ICT and entrepreneurial skills needed to lead successful start-ups, and be agents of change bridging the opportunity divide in their communities.
“Both Microsoft and the Ministry of Cooperatives and SME share the same concern about entrepreneurship development for young people,” said Clair Deevy. “With YouthSpark receiving tremendous support from the government, we want to continue reaching out to youth — enabling them to gain access to technology and the benefits they would otherwise not have.”To help SMEs understand the latest and future changes in the technology landscape that would impact their connectivity and competitiveness, the Microsoft team conducted a four-day Office 365 training for more than 360 local SMEs. It demonstrated the features and benefits of the cloud-based software in enhancing work productivity, transforming work processes and collaboration on a whole new level, and also showcased the latest Windows 8 devices and Windows phones.Indonesian Deputy Minister for SME and Cooperatives Wayan Dipta recognises the contributions made by Microsoft in enabling local SMEs, naming them “the MNC partner that constantly supported [the Ministry] in technology.”“We have been working closely with Microsoft for the past two years,” he added, “And they proved to be a strategic partner in delivering innovative solutions to enable SMEs in Indonesia to go a step further into the global market.”