Digital solutions alone are not sufficient: there is more to it

Opinion: Digital solutions

 
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Despite the rapid digital transformations around the world and most parts of Asia, some parts of the Pacific region are seeing a slow adoption of digitisation processes, especially in the in the agri-industry domain. However, women’s participation in economic activities, especially in some parts of the Pacific, is in itself a great challenge for womenfolk even before they even think about digital solutions. So digital solutions alone are not sufficient to catalyse women’s agribusinesses.

As a digital branding strategist and marketer, I have helped brand several women-owned small to medium-size businesses in the agriculture sector. A particular case I wish to mention is the Managalas Coffee Plantation Development in Popondeta Oro Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG). I met the founder, Robbie Kesseng, during the first ever Digital Marketing Summit I hosted in Port Moresby earlier in 2019.

Kesseng has manually built a database of over 1,000 coffee farmers in the Managalas area who rely on her to bring their coffee out from the rugged mountains to the market. While working on their branding, I advised Kesseng to create a simple database-driven platform to capture her fast-growing membership and use that platform as a payment and educational and awareness gateway for her members. This is just one case amongst many.

Digital solutions have the potential to greatly transform the way woman in the agribusiness sector do business in the Pacific region. However, there are immediate challenges we must first overcome. First of all, we must overcome the challenge of infrastructure development upon which the digital solutions will ride on. Digicel PNG has done that well in PNG since their entry into the telecommunication space.

Secondly, the high cost of internet remains a huge challenge, not only for the agriculture sector but the entire business community. With the introduction of the Coral Sea Cable that connects PNG, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands to Sydney, Australia, we hope to see reduction in internet costs, which will boost the digital economy.

Thirdly, there is a big need for digital literacy for all. Digital literacy, not only for woman in agribusiness but also for their husbands and children. Education, especially digital literacy will break down many cultural barriers that limit womenfolk taking part in the digital economy. Education will arm them with the skills they need to start, brand, market and grow their businesses. It is education that will break the chains of cultural and self-imposed mental bondage our womenfolk face every day.

Overall, Asia and the Pacific’s e-commerce is forecast to have grown 31.5% in 2016, thanks to benefits from rapid technological advances, improved logistics and infrastructure and expansion of the internet, as the world’s biggest market for online sales of goods and services. And double-digit growth is forecast through to 2020, with an expected US$2.7 trillion (€2.4 trillion) in sales in 2020.

Those are great numbers and I am thrilled. But the core question remains: Is it all about digital solutions that matter or is there more to it? Having branded hundreds of small businesses in my country PNG and around the Pacific region, I can confidently say that there is more to it than just seeking smart digital business solutions.