In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic everything from education to doctor’s visits went online, forcing companies to use technology to reimagine almost every aspect of their business. There is no doubt that digital technology, our lifeline in surviving the pandemic, will be the medium that aids rapid and smart recovery.

South Africa’s economic recovery hinges on companies – particularly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as engines of job creation – utilising the best technology levers, digital tools and solutions, to enhance their competitiveness and ensure their survival and sustainability.

Photo Credit: pexels.com/Anthony Shkraba

The focus of the final segment of a four-part series presented by the Johannesburg Business School in partnership with the Business Day SME Matters digitised series was on the role of big tech and SMEs in SA’s post Covid-19 economic recovery.

It’s impossible to function without technology, pointed out editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff magazine, Toby Shapshack. His advice to SMEs was to give a wide berth to flashy and unnecessary technology and instead invest in technology that can make a real difference to a business. It’s not just the technology you choose to invest in that counts, but how you use it that makes the difference.

There are a myriad of tools available which make it possible for businesses to function remotely – and every business should be able to continue to function remotely, he said.

In a similar vein there are numerous educational resources available which make it possible for SMEs to upskill themselves at little or no cost.

SME’s are particularly vulnerable to the digital divide compared to larger corporates who have IT departments at their disposal to build technological capacity, pointed out Alistair Mokoena, South Africa country director of Google.

He said Google was committed to deploying technology to solve problems. The tech giant offers a range of solutions to help SMEs build their businesses, including ‘Google my Business’ which helps business owners to create a website, and can even assist with building e-commerce capability.  Other tools provided by Google include ‘Market Finder,’ which provides insight into foreign markets for businesses wanting to set up an offshore presence, and ‘Grow with Google’ which lists all the support provided for small businesses offered by the company. ‘Think with Google’, on the other hand, is a newsletter which provides access to additional resources.

Lyndsay Duff, senior lead at what3words, says the Covid-19 lockdown forced many companies to speed up their digital integration in order to gain access to markets.

Not having a formal physical address is a significant barrier to success which is why what3words has developed a geocode system for the communication of locations. The company encodes geographic co-ordinates, and every 3 metre square of the world has been given a unique combination of three words. This is used by a number of businesses including logistics companies. “Our goal is to provide an addressing system for all Africans which is as accessible and inclusive as possible,” said Duff.

A social impact business, what3words provides all its technology for free.

While small businesses face numerous challenges, most of them are not insurmountable, said event moderator, the Johannesburg Business School’s Professor Lyal White. The inherent agility of small businesses makes them far more competitive in many instances. Those that have survived this Covid-19 period are likely to thrive in the future.

To watch the full discussion, click here

Details on the entire 4 part series are below:

Watch Part 1

Watch Part 2

Watch Part 3

Watch Part 4