During EU SME Week, Vodafone hosted an event on ‘How Digital can enable SME Recovery under Next Generation EU’.
This event explored the enablers and barriers to the adoption of digital tools by SMEs and tried to identify recommendations on how the Next Generation EU recovery package could best be used. Specifically, it examined how EU and national recovery can support the introduction of more digital tools and close the gap that impacts SMEs successfully emerging from the COVID-19 crisis and building their future resilience.
Vodafone was delighted to welcome a range of distinguished speakers to this event, with a summary of the discussions available in the video below.
Key themes emerging from event
1. SME are the beating heart of the European economy – This was emphasised by Adriana Maldonado Lopez MEP, who highlighted the important role European policymakers have to play in supporting SME resilience and recovery. SMEs are the social fabric of our communities, a point emphasised by Liam O’Brien of Vodafone Ireland and Gerard Brady of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC). The sense of urgency to support SMEs has become even more critical as SMEs will be a key determinate of Europe’s recovery and future success.
2. Digitalisation is a catalyst for change – Alban Maggiar of SMEUnited reinforced that digital tools should be seen as economic assets for SMEs. Vinod Kumar, CEO of Vodafone Business further highlighted the wide-ranging positive business outcomes that digitalisation provides SMEs, while Manju George of the World Economic Forum emphasised the value of digitalising supply chains.
3. The EU reconstruction plan offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity – it is a chance to transform our European economies and societies for the better and Devin Bicer of the European Commission indicated SMEs should be at the centre of each national recovery plan and package. Sebastiano Toffaletti from the European DIGITAL SME Alliance noted that sustainable digitalisation is fundamental if we are to deliver a more resilient, innovative and more dynamic economic recovery.
4. Targeted interventions needed to support SMEs – Socrates Mokkas, Deloitte, presented findings from their recent SME Digitalisation report, concluding that policymakers should take a multifaceted policy approach in this area, focusing on the key themes of the availability of connectivity and also the capacity and capability of SMEs to take advantage of digitalisation.Vodafone Greece’s Katia Stathaki outlined how funding in Greece should prioritise digital support for SMEs. Céline Kauffmann from the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities (CFE) highlighted the role of the Digital for SME Global Initiative (D4SME), and referred to the importance of providing structural support to SMEs to help them adopt digital technologies.
5. Set measurable ambitious targets – Joakim Reiter, Vodafone Group, concluded the event by setting out the aim that all Member States should aim to achieve 90% on the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) index, a vital prerequisite in ensuring that Europe’s SMEs are able to digitalise fully.
What are the next steps
All participants agreed on the importance of working together to achieve sustainable, long-lasting impactful change in this area. The EU reconstruction plan presents a vital opportunity for Member States to contribute to the digital transformation of SMEs. By investing in small businesses, and helping them achieve their full, digital potential, we can collectively achieve a stronger, future-proofed Europe.
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