PMD: In a pioneering move to bolster the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector in Sri Lanka, the apex body of the ICT industry, FITIS, has unveiled the “DigiGo” Digital Playbook for SMEs. The launch event took place at a press conference recently at the President’s Media Centre, (PMC). Organized by the FITIS Digital Services Chapter, in collaboration with LKDomain Registry and under the patronage of the Ministry of Industries & Plantation Industries, as well as the Ministry of Technology, DigiGo aims to serve as a comprehensive resource for SMEs seeking affordable local digital services, guiding them on their journey towards digital transformation.
Addressing the gathering State Minister of Technology, Kanaka Herath, emphasized the pivotal role of technology in propelling the growth of the SME sector. He underscored how technology can provide solutions to the common challenges faced by SMEs, including accessing seed capital, expanding into new markets, overcoming resource constraints and addressing logistical issues. He also expressed his enthusiasm for collaborating with FITIS to launch the DigiGo initiative, which he believes will significantly enhance the SME sector in the country.
Furthermore, the Minister highlighted that the government has initiated the “Digicon 2030” program, with the primary objective of formulating a national digital economic policy for the year 2030. This initiative was a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Technology, the industry and with the support of the World Bank (WB). The resulting document was officially presented to President Ranil Wickremesinghe. Notably, SMEs have been identified as one of the six key pillars in shaping the digital economy strategy. This underscores the importance of supporting SMEs in achieving the objectives of the digital economic strategy.
The State Minister of Technology, acknowledged the prevalent challenge of limited digital education among SMEs, especially those outside major urban centres like Colombo and Kandy. In response, DigiGo will serve as a guiding resource, enabling SMEs to explore available digital platforms and fully embrace the advantages of going digital. The program plans to host quarterly DigiGo events in all 25 districts by 2030, ensuring the widespread dissemination of digital knowledge.
With the recent launch of DigiGo, Minister Herath emphasized its role in promoting awareness about digital transformation and the benefits it offers to all SMEs in Sri Lanka. The DigiGo digital playbook, unveiled during the launch, serves as a unique platform showcasing a wide array of available digital services, creating opportunities for business growth and expansion in the digital sphere. The inaugural event, scheduled to commence on October 20th in Galle, is planned to expand its reach to all 25 districts through collaboration with local business communities. FITIS, in partnership with the Ministry of Technology and various public and private stakeholders, will facilitate these sessions, aimed at empowering SMEs to embrace the digital era and unlock their full potential.
In a significant development, Ms. Chio Kenda, the World Bank Country Manager for Maldives and Sri Lanka, unveiled the “DigiGo Innovate Digitally to Succeed” initiative during her speech. She underscored the potential for digital development to address both global and local challenges, emphasizing its role in job creation, market expansion and the enhancement of access to finance. As Sri Lanka navigates its way out of an economic crisis and sets forth on the path to recovery, the strategic development and implementation of a national business strategy by 2030 are deemed crucial steps.
On a global scale, the digital economy presents substantial opportunities for SMEs to make significant contributions to national incomes. In the year 2023, business-to-consumer e-commerce recorded sales of nearly US $6 trillion. With over 1.7 million SMEs propelling economic growth in Sri Lanka and driving employment, they collectively represent approximately 90% of all businesses in the country. They are responsible for providing 45% of the nation’s employment opportunities and contribute to almost half of the country’s GDP.
However, SMEs, whether on a global scale or in the Sri Lankan context, face distinctive challenges when it comes to embracing digital transformation. These challenges include constraints related to limited resources, knowledge and digital expertise. Such limitations hinder the potential for business growth, innovation and the attainment of economic and social inclusivity. To address these common challenges, the Digital Goal Programme has been established as a collaborative endeavour, featuring active participation from the private sector, government and local stakeholders, with the essential support of relevant partners.
In her address, it was disclosed that the World Bank takes pride in its role as a knowledge partner in this digital program and applauds the central focus on decentralizing SMEs within the upcoming national digital strategy. The institution has committed to providing on-going technical support to both the government and the private sector as they collaborate to shape the 2030 strategy for a digital Sri Lanka. These collaborative efforts are aimed at boosting economic competitiveness, fostering skills development and ultimately facilitating the creation of higher-paying jobs within the country.
The inaugural DigiGo event, which is regionally planned, is scheduled to take place on October 20th in Galle, under the guidance of Dr. Ramesh Pathirana, Minister of Industries & Plantation Industries, and Kanaka Herath, State Minister of Technology. The World Bank’s support for this event underscores its commitment to advancing Sri Lanka’s digital transformation in alignment with the nation’s digital economy strategy.
Mr. Indika De Zoysa, Chairman of FITIS, unveiled the ground-breaking DigiGo initiative, highlighting the myriad opportunities it offers through digital technologies. DigiGo, from data analytics to e-commerce, aims to provide SMEs with a platform for knowledge sharing, featuring insights from industry experts and thought leaders on emerging trends, best practices and strategies driving digital innovation.
SMEs, which contribute 52% to Sri Lanka’s GDP and represent over 75% of businesses, have long been the backbone of the economy, offering 45% of employment and contributing 20% to exports, as per the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Acknowledging their pivotal role in the nation’s economic revival, the government has designated them as a key pillar in the “Digital Economy Strategy 2030.” DigiGo is poised to propel Sri Lanka’s digital economy by bridging the technology-business gap, fostering a thriving digital ecosystem, with a special focus on the 1 million+ SMEs across the island.
The event was attended by Professor Gihan Dias, a founder member of DigiGo, Omar Sahib, President of the FITIS Digital Services Chapter, Chief Executive Officer of LankaPay Chandran De Silva and other officials.