Quyen and Binh run a teahouse and handicraft store with a mission in Vietnam. They understand the difficulties faced by people with disabilities—Binh is wheelchair bound. So, their social enterprise Reaching Out Teahouse sets out to provide people with disabilities with meaningful employment. Many other entrepreneurs in the region also want to help others. Maximilian Herli from Indonesia noticed that people suffering from depression were often ashamed to get help, and even ridiculed by others when they reached out for support. He developed Riliv, an app to connect them directly to certified psychologists.
At Google, we’ve long been champions of small businesses like these in Southeast Asia because they create jobs, drive economic growth and make a difference to their communities. Across the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), small and medium enterprises (SMEs) employ more than 80 percent of the workforce and contribute more than 50 percent of the region’s GDP. That’s why we run programs in several Southeast Asian countries to train SMEs in digital skills, including Gapura Digital in Indonesia and Digital 4.0 in Vietnam.
We’ve also consistently advocated for Southeast Asia’s potential as a leading digital economy. A new study projects that ASEAN could gain an additional $1 trillion in GDP by 2025 by using its digital economy to accelerate intra-regional trade and growth. The success of the region’s digital integration depends on its SMEs being included in technological progress and economic growth. The same research indicates that only 16 percent of ASEAN SMEs truly utilise digital tools.
That means investing in SMEs so that they can benefit from Southeast Asia’s promising digital economy. We’re deepening our commitment by training three million SME workers across all 10 countries in Southeast Asia in digital skills by 2020. This initiative augments existing digital skills training initiatives and creates new programs for SMEs in Southeast Asia. The courses, conducted in offline classes, will be customized for each country to address specific needs and will vary from basic digital literacy to more advanced digital marketing tools.
More than ever, we’re committed to supporting the growth of Southeast Asia’s promising digital economy and its talented people. We hope that our partnership with ASEAN SMEs empowers more entrepreneurs like Quyen Mai, Binh and Maximilian. By investing in their success, we help them to help others. We hope to see millions more SME workers in Southeast Asia changing their communities for the better.