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COVID-19 and Technology Adoption in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: The Impact and the Way Forward – A White Paper

In December 2021, the Covid-19 and technology adoption in SMMEs White Paper was published and resulted from a study led by a fellow in the WEF run C4IR centre in San Francisco from Kazakhstani. The study was conducted in collaboration with the C4IR centres in Azerbaijan, Brazil, Columbia, Kazakhstan, South Africa and Turkey with support from the Astana International Financial Centre and Deloitte. The study ran a survey of SMMEs in participating countries and sought to contribute to the understanding of challenges surrounding and facilitating their adoption. The Study formed part of an SME Futures set of projects under the Future of the Connected platform.

The SME Futures set of projects are premised on the understanding that, while SMMEs constitute a majority of businesses globally and are primary drivers of employment, they are falling behind in the adoption of the 4IR. A study conducted by the WEF focused on the impact of COVID-19 technology adoption among SMMEs and found that larger businesses are six times more likely to use the Industrial IoT than SMMEs, which resulted in a White Paper, was published in January 2020.

The top three barriers to digital technology adoption among SMMEs in surveyed countries were financial constraints, lack of skilled labour, and infrastructure. Other barriers include the availability of digital technology, inadequate support from executives, insufficient government support, absence of industry standards and cybersecurity concerns.

The White Paper proposed several policy interventions, informed by these three barriers, including the adoption of a policy protocol published in 2020 titled “Accelerating the Impact of Industrial IoT in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: A protocol for Action”. The White Paper argues that this is still the best way to promote the wider adoption of technology among SMMEs.

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