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Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

Mar 24, 2023

Empowering women entrepreneurs in the digital age

The use of digital technologies presents opportunities for the formalization and growth of enterprises. It facilitates connectivity, flexibility, and efficiency in business operations and provides a wider market for micro-entrepreneurs. However, there is a need to level the playing field and make sure that these opportunities are equally accessible to all existing and aspiring entrepreneurs, regardless of gender.

According to GSMA, 52 million Filipinos, including a significant number of women, living in areas already covered by mobile broadband do not use mobile internet. Among the barriers faced by women are handset and data cost, limited access to networks and electricity, and safety and security concerns.

For women micro-entrepreneurs, while access to a mobile phone could be a barrier, we think the greater challenges include slow or no internet connectivity, especially in the rural areas; lack of awareness, technical know-how, and skills; and low access to digital financing products, such as e-wallets and other banking services.

A Digital Readiness Study showed that while most have started their digital journey through social media sites, women entrepreneurs need more knowledge and skills to optimize the digital platform and convert engagement to sales.

In the government’s push for digitalization, one of our aims is also to provide the necessary support for our micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

For instance, in the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the Free Wi-Fi program that intends to provide broadband connectivity in all parts of the country, particularly the unserved and underserved areas, will help give entrepreneurs access to the internet and other mobile services.

To provide women entrepreneurs the necessary digital selling skills, we have various digital literacy and ICT trainings in the Tech4ED Centers in the country. We are also advancing E-governance. The streamlining of government services is crucial to help women micro-entrepreneurs easily access government services, including the application of necessary permits that will allow them to expand their businesses and access credit.

These programs of the DICT complement the programs of other government agencies for women entrepreneurs, such as the SheTrades PH Hub under the Department of Trade and Industry that allows Filipina-led businesses to network, sell products and services, and access e-learning programs and market tools to enhance their participation in international trade; the Kabuyan Program of the Department of Labor and Employment that helps women venture into entrepreneurship by providing a grant assistance for capacity building on livelihood; and the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP) of the Department of Science and Technology that benefits women entrepreneurs to adopt technological innovations to improve their products, services, operations and increase their productivity and competitiveness.

Moreover, the results of the DICT’s Women and ICT Development Index (WIDI) Survey will provide a comprehensive evidence base for more gender responsive ICT policies, plans, and programs. It will help our government identify interventions towards improving women’s ICT access and use, craft policies to ensure cybersecurity and data privacy, and identify gaps that must be filled.

These initiatives help provide our women micro-entrepreneurs the needed boost not only to continue, upgrade, or start their business, but also to utilize mobile services and other digital technologies.

The role of the government is vital in encouraging women to venture into the digital economy. Addressing the digital divide and digital gender gap, particularly in the areas of entrepreneurship and ICT, will help women entrepreneurs harness the potential of the digital economy in improving the competitiveness and productivity of their business operations.

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