APEC economies block has some great technologically innovative and fastest growing markets globally. The block has a strong culture, entrepreneurship and craftsmanship spirit. But their APEC economies’ informal sector has not yet fully embraced the benefits of trade driven by technology. The Papua New Guinea (PNG) drive explores the ways through which modern digital solutions can link informal sector entrepreneurs with new business opportunities and customers. The initiative is doing that through the support of The Asian Foundation. It is also receiving support from APEC Secretariat and Google.
The 2018 APEC App Challenge is taking place in Port Moresby as from 24th May this year. The challenge is the first step process to the PNG’s initiative. APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting in the region, 14 groups of designers and software developers from nine APEC economies will take part in the app development challenge that will take place for 24 hours. The challenge will be held under the theme in question form. How can entrepreneurs in informal sectors in the APEC economies use tech to get opportunities?
According to Asian Foundation’s Technology Program’s senior director John Karr, developers will closely work with micro and SMEs from handcraft sector of PNG during the 24-hour challenge. He added that the main aim is to develop a web tool or an app. The app or the tool will assist local entrepreneurs to develop their brand identities. It is also aimed at helping them get to opportunities on border market. The opportunities will come by selling to both international and local clients. Local artisans will be able to use modern digital technology to support their traditional craft and improve their businesses. Karr added that the project would entail policy discussions.
Many open source solutions and e-commerce platforms are already available for such products. The groups are just expected to provide tools that can be fully used by local entrepreneurs to expose their products. It will also help them to link with their clients through ways that lead to sales. Roughly 1 million people from PNG can access the internet. Furthermore, there is a high usage of social media among them. Google Asia-Pacific’s President Karim Temsamani said that the region is largely dynamic. He also said that the micro and small businesses in the region possess a huge potential. He added that they only need opportunities to pitch their craft to the world. They can get that chance through online platforms and tools.
Karr added that in PNG the ideas are practically changed into finished products. Those taking part in the challenge develop and sell bilum bags. These are traditional bags that suit the culture of PNG. The well-crafted bags are produced for practical use by the locals. They are also for sale to the tourists as souvenirs. The woven design may represent a political message, a family tradition. The design may also have another meaning that suits an artist. This makes each design unique.
The executive director of APEC Secretariat Alan Bollard said that the challenge would help entrepreneurs to expand their ability to link to customers. Moreover, it will help them to source for scalable concepts for online platforms. The concepts can be used to improve informal economies in the region and the whole world. The challenge will close down on 7th June midnight. The groups will pitch their ideas to researchers, diplomats and policymakers.