BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei has launched a regional initiative that will provide digital skills training to 4,000 local micro-entrepreneurs and under-employed youths.

Participants of the ‘Go Digital ASEAN’ initiative will be equipped with technology skills and tools to help them expand economic opportunities across the region and minimise the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) said in a statement on Thursday.

DARe acts as Brunei’s focal agency representative to the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME), which is collaborating with the Asia Foundation to carry out the digital project.

The initiative, which will be implemented in all 10 ASEAN member states, aims to train up to 200,000 micro and small enterprises and underserved youth, including women in rural and isolated areas so that they can use technology to grow their businesses.

Big Begawan Project and the Young Entrepreneurs Association Brunei (YEAB) were chosen as the two local implementing partners of the 11-month programme.

Brunei will be training 2,000 under-employed youths, 450 from marginalised communities and indigenous groups as well as 50 special needs people who fall within the age group of 18-35, Big Begawan Project founder Noorhafizah Hj Rashid said during the country launch of the programme.

Multiple government bodies, companies and NGOs will be delivering the training in all four districts, with the training content adapted to fit local settings.

“We aim to do this project over a series of eight workshops for unemployed youths and eight projects for marginalised communities to be conducted within the four districts, starting from August until June 2021,” said Noorhafizah.

President of YEAB Fatin Arifin said there is a big opportunity to support digitalisation among MSMEs as a huge digital gap still exists.

Noting that the government has launched its Digital Economy Masterplan 2025 in June to transform Brunei into a ‘Smart Nation’, Fatin said realising the plan requires industry to adopt and integrate digitisation into their businesses.

“We have conducted some baseline study and survey since May and have identified that some of the biggest impediments to digitalisation is the MSMEs’ digital literacy such as own understanding of what digitalisation entails due to the lack of exposure and know-how as well as accessible resources,” she said.

She hoped that a roadmap for MSMEs digitalisation could be developed to guide entrepreneurs towards digitalisation by the end of the programme.

“At the moment, our hope is to move MSMEs’ understanding of digitalisation beyond social media,” Fatin added.

DARe said the goal of the initiative is to foster entrepreneurial and digital literacy skills and encourage the target audience to start their own businesses or expand their current ventures.

Local implementing partners will use part of the funding to develop digital literacy training modules for 4,000 micro-entrepreneurs and underemployed youths.

Google’s charitable arm is supporting the initiative with a US$3.3 million grant.