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ASEAN and The Asia Foundation, with support from collaborate to equip 200,000 micro and small enterprises with digital skills and tools amidst the COVID-19 crisis

ASEAN and The Asia Foundation, with support from collaborate to equip 200,000 micro and small enterprises with digital skills and tools amidst the COVID-19 crisis

SINGAPORE, June 22, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME) and The Asia Foundation have come together, to launch the Go Digital ASEAN initiative. Supported by a USD3.3 million grant from, the initiative is designed to equip micro and small enterprises as well as underemployed youth, particularly those in rural and isolated areas, with crucial digital skills and tools; expand economic opportunity across ASEAN Member States (AMS); and minimize the negative impact from the COVID-19 crisis.

A textiles entrepreneur from Lahanam, Savanakhet Province, Laos. Photo by Whitney Legge: The Asia Foundation
A textiles entrepreneur from Lahanam, Savanakhet Province, Laos. Photo by Whitney Legge: The Asia Foundation

The Go Digital ASEAN initiative focuses on closing the digital gap across ASEAN, in support of the vision set out by the ACCMSME's Action Agenda on Digitalisation of ASEAN Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) through Capacity Building. Implemented by The Asia Foundation with support from−Google's philanthropic arm, the initiative will train up to 200,000 people from rural regions and underserved communities—including entrepreneurs, underemployed youth, and women. Working with local partners in AMS, the USD3.3 million grant will broaden participation in the digital economy to include groups that have the most to gain from digital literacy skills and online safety awareness. Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, this initiative will also be a mechanism for helping MSMEs to learn about programs or assistance that can help them continue to operate during the COVID-19 crisis.

Mr. Bountheung Douangsavanh, the Chair of ACCMSME and Director General of the Department of SME Promotion, Ministry of Industry and Commerce of Lao PDR remarked, "We very much welcome this collaboration with The Asia Foundation and appreciate the support by in our mission to enable more MSMEs to participate and take advantage of the growing digital economy in ASEAN. This Go Digital ASEAN initiative demonstrates ACCMSME's resolve to partner the private sector and non-governmental bodies in the implementation of the ASEAN Action Agenda on Digitalisation of ASEAN MSMEs through Capacity Building. It is a platform that welcomes and facilitates collaborations with private sector technology companies to increase awareness and readiness of MSMEs by providing access to information, training, mentoring and networking opportunities. The Action Agenda contributes to the overall ASEAN Digital Integration Framework announced at the 50th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting in August 2018."

David D. Arnold, President of The Asia Foundation said, "We are pleased to activate this first-of-its-kind collaboration—pooling expertise and approaches from government, business, and NGO sectors—to help bridge the digital gap. In villages and secondary cities across the region, The Asia Foundation's local country offices will lead a community network of trainers and volunteers to help integrate MSME owners and underemployed youth workers into the digital economy."

Ms. Stephanie Davis, Managing Director at Google Southeast Asia, shared, "Small businesses are at the heart of every country's economy and community. The current difficult circumstances have reinforced the urgency of supporting their digitisation. The Asia Foundation and ACCMSME share our passion to help local businesses succeed, grow and create opportunity for local economies. This grant builds upon our initiatives that focus on skills training in the region and reflect our commitment and investment in the region."

When the World Health Organisation announced the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic, countries across the world imposed lockdowns, community quarantines, and movement restrictions to contain the spread of the virus, resulting in disruptions to economic activities and severely impacting MSMEs. Initial studies have highlighted key challenges faced by MSMEs in the face of this global health crisis, which include depletion of operational cash flow, drop in demand for products and services, supply disruptions, reduction of opportunities to interact with customers, and issues with a changing business environment to offer alternative products and services. Even as the containment measures are slowly lifted, continued social distancing may push more businesses online. MSMEs must re-examine and adjust the way they do business. Digital technology could potentially address the myriad challenges and provide an opportunity for businesses to survive and sustain through the pandemic and beyond.

Through the Go Digital ASEAN initiative, participants will learn how to better utilise the internet and relevant digital tools to grow their businesses and reduce vulnerability against cyber threats. Training will be customised to local conditions and will cover modules such as digital marketing, business development, and online safety components to enable participants to access the most relevant tools and skills to help them improve their livelihoods in the digital economy. Information on relief programmes and measures provided by AMS will also help MSMEs continue to operate amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Learn more about the initiative here.


The ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME) is the ASEAN body responsible for strengthening MSMEs' participation in ASEAN integration and in deepening and broadening their contribution to ASEAN's economic growth. Comprising the ASEAN Member States' Heads and representatives of MSME agencies, and supported by the ASEAN Secretariat, the ACCMSME facilitates the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of ASEAN Strategic Action Plan for SME Development 2016-2025 (SAP SMED 2025), with the mission to create globally competitive, resilient and innovative MSMEs that are seamlessly integrated to the ASEAN community and to achieve inclusive development in the region.

About The Asia Foundation

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote international cooperation. Headquartered in San Francisco, The Asia Foundation works through a network of offices in 18 Asian countries and in Washington, DC. Learn more at

About (, Google's philanthropy, supports nonprofits that address humanitarian issues and apply scalable, data-driven innovation to solving the world's biggest challenges. We accelerate their progress by connecting them with a unique blend of support that includes funding, products, and technical expertise from Googlers. We engage with these believers-turned-doers who make a significant impact on the communities they represent, and whose work has the potential to produce meaningful change. We want a world that works for everyone—and we believe technology and innovation can move the needle.







200,000 Individuals


The Young Entrepreneurs Association Brunei (YEAB)



Young Entrepreneurs Association Brunei (YEAB)'s mission is to provide access to a network of entrepreneurial experience, nurture an enterprising culture and encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship as Brunei endeavors to facilitate the attainment of Wawasan 2035. YEAB is targeting 1,500 MSME-owners and employees to increase their digital literacy skills and adopt the digitalization of businesses in Brunei.


Big BWN Project's mission is to empower, encourage and support local youth, women and entrepreneurs, in order to become self-sustainable and to create a diverse community of entrepreneurs from different fields who support each other to grow their businesses and ideas, accompany them through delivering their initiatives to communities and addressing the key challenges affecting the growth of business initiatives. BigBWN is targeting to train 2,000 youths in Brunei to be more digitally literate to access better job opportunities and gain access to employment.





STAR Kampuchea


Development Innovations



InSTEDD iLab Southeast Asia's mission is to improve global health, safety and sustainable development through collaborating with end users, co-creating tools, ensuring impact, and building capacity.


InSTEDD iLab Southeast Asia is developing training content and curriculum as well providing Training of Trainer training to volunteer trainers.


STAR Kampuchea's mission is to improve the capacities of civil society organizations and communities to deliver high quality advocacy assistance on priority issues of vulnerable and disadvantaged people. STAR Kampuchea is mobilizing volunteer trainers to deliver training to rural micro and SME entrepreneurs in seven targeted locations.


Development Innovations was a six-year USAID-funded project that helped civil society organizations, technology companies, social enterprises and young innovators to design and use information and communications technology (ICT) solutions and employ innovative processes to tackle Cambodia's development challenges.

Development Innovations advised on curriculum development and implementation planning prior to the conclusion of their program in 2019.



Pusat Pengembangan Sumberdaya Wanita (or Center for Women's Resource Development)

PPSW's mission is to empower women especially those in the lowest socioeconomic strata in communities that are concentrated in urban slums, and rural areas. They use the focus issues faced by the community, such as economic, health and education issues as an entry point in community organizing, especially women's groups. Through this program, PPSW will extend their community work through introducing digital literacy to help their community get better access to digital economy






STELLA is a unique platform for Lao youth to learn soft skills, share experience, and collaborate on projects to create positive change to their own communities.


STELLA will support The Asia Foundation to develop, deliver and promote innovative and responsive training solutions for digital literacy targeting MSMEs in cooperation with participating Lao Government higher education institutions.



International Youth Center


Startup Malaysia

The International Youth Center (IYC) is a youth development centre for the internationalization of youth equipped with 21st-century skills under the purview of the Ministry of Youth & Sports.


IYC as the main project partner will deliver the GoDigital ASEAN project in partnership with Startup Malaysia, a social enterprise set up in 2011 that fosters entrepreneurial skills in individuals to enable them to build their career, contribute to society and lead a fulfilling life.


 IYC together with Startup Malaysia aims to assist youth and MSME owners to gain the skills on digital literacy to access the marketplace of online prospects, craft their own digital marketing campaigns and provide them with tools to monitor and adapt marketing campaigns.



Myanmar Library Association (MLA)

Myanmar Library Association is a non-governmental organization with a mission to help the country in every capacity to motivate reading, improve access to and use of new technology and in the area of information literacy development in the country. MLA members will serve as master TOT trainers to provide digital literacy training to university and college students; students from technical and vocational education and training schools; and those who finished high school and are looking for job opportunities in Kayin State, Yangon Region and Mandalay Region.



Pailig Development Foundation


Clevergrit Web Services



Pailig Development Foundation, Inc. is an Iligan City-based non-government organization that firmly believes in the democratic principles and has more than 21 years of empowering total human development for sustainable development through technical assistance and life skills capacity building; community organizing, empowerment and development; livelihood and income generation; and advocacy on transparent and accountable governance.


As the implementing partner in the Philippines, Pailig helps bring the program to beneficiaries of Go Digital ASEAN across Mindanao.


Clevergrit's advocacy is to support startups, particularly MSMEs in the countryside, and has more than 10 years of experience in helping businesses build their presence and expand their marketing success by identifying gaps and opportunities to provide comprehensive project plans with timelines and cost analyses.


Clevergrit will serve as Master Trainers and provide its expertise to equip trainers and refine the program curriculum in the Philippines.



Engineering Good (EG)

Engineering Good is a Singapore-based non-profit organisation that empowers disadvantaged communities by improving their quality of life through sustainable engineering solutions.


EG will be hosting a Hackathon for underemployed youth and underemployed youth with disabilities.



Thai Fund Foundation (TFF)


Inter Mountain Peoples' Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT)

Thai Fund Foundation aims to distribute knowledge and innovation to communities especially in remote areas and to provide opportunity for people participating in development activities.


Inter Mountain Peoples' Education and Culture in Thailand Association supports community organizations and networks of local indigenous people on culture, rights, and liberty to define the ways of life of indigenous people.


Together TFF and IMPECT will work with lead coordinators in 20 provinces in the Northeastern (TFF) and Northern (IMPECT) regions of Thailand, connecting 2,000 local volunteer trainers to distribute knowledge to 40,000 individuals.



Tinh Thuong Microfinance Institution (TYM)


Vietnet ICT

Tinh Thuong Microfinance Institution (TYM) is a microfinance service provider belonging to the Vietnam Women's Union, mandated to empower low-income women and their families through provision of financial and non-financial services to facilitate their participation in socio-economic activities and improve their quality of life.


TYM is the project's key implementing partner, using its existing service delivery network to outreach and deliver the digital literacy training to nearly 65,000 household businesses and underemployed youth in 13 provinces in the northern delta, highland and central parts of Vietnam.


Vietnet Information Technology and Communication Center (Vietnet-ICT) is a local NGO mandated to support disadvantaged communities and groups to get access and benefit from information technology and communication services via promoting partnership and capacity building. 


Vietnet-ICT will technically lead training curriculum development specifically designed for the project's target beneficiaries and training of the lead trainers and field mentors who are service delivery staff of TYM.


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