Women taking advantage of digital technology for successful business start-up

The global economy is comprehensively changing along with the strong rise of the fourth industrial revolution. Economic activities have been promoted based on new technologies with digital technology (artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain, cloud computing ...) as the core, which facilitates commercial transactions, product and service exchange.
VWU Vice President Do Thi Thu Thao (dark blue ao dai, second from left) attends event "Hai Phong women: connecting - innovating" (source: VOV.vn)

That context has led to great opportunities, as well as difficulties and challenges for enterprises in general, and for women-owned businesses in particular in accessing and entering the digital economy.

Given a new and modern technology platform with 43.7 out of 97.4 million Vietnamese people (about 44.9%) using multipurpose smart mobile devices, it would be easier for women-owned businesses to start-up to access huge amounts of market data, to build and develop business networks, and to optimize production processes and methods in order to reduce costs and increase productivity, participating in the regional and global supply chain. A 2017 study by Economics and YouGo shows that 40% of facebook pages are owned by women with a growth rate of over 60% a year. In Vietnam, the number of facebook pages owned by women enterprises was increased by 2.6 times compared to 2016, showing that women-owned businesses in Vietnam have promptly adapted and taken advantage of the opportunities brought by digital economy to develop and boost their business and production activities.

The 2019 assessment of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) in collaboration with the Aus4Reform Program and the Central Institute for Economic Management reports that up to 68.6% of female business owners are bachelors and postgraduates in business administration. That means women are qualified and capable to access new science and technology.

The Vietnamese Government pays great attention, timely encourages, and creates favourable conditions for enterprises in digital economy development through guidelines and policies including Resolution No. 52-NQ/TW dated September 27, 2019 of the Politburo on proactive participation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution; Directive No. 01/CT-TTg of the Prime Minister on promoting the development of Vietnamese digital technology enterprises. In particular, the "National digital transformation program to 2025, orientation by 2030" (approved by the Prime Minister in June 2020) sets out strategies and policies for digital technology enterprise development, promoting the movement "Vietnamese products to win over Vietnamese customers", developing technological and telecommunication infrastructures...

By implementing the project "Supporting women start-up in the period of 2017 - 2025" (Project 939 approved by the Prime Minister on June 30, 2017), the Vietnam Women's Union (VWU) has various activities to enable women start-up to apply digital technology in production and business. Specifically, the VWU has coordinated with "Vietnam Digital 4.0" - initiated by Google - to provide free basic and advanced training courses on digital skills, soft skills, and business skills; to organize domestic and international seminars and forums on female entrepreneurship in the fourth industrial revolution, women start-up in the digital economy.

It is important to note that women start-up and women-owned businesses also face challenges of participating in the digital transformative economy such as lacking of background skills and expertise on science and technology. Yet, the majority of women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) (accounting for about 99% of women-owned businesses) have not found an effective way to reach customers via internet, to deploy mobile or e-commerce. Many enterprises still use outdated technologies and means of production, and low quality labour. According to a VCCI survey, at present, women-owned SMEs’ capacity in terms of science - technology and innovation is too limited to participate in the global production value chain. In addition, Vietnam is ranked 85 out of 143 countries and territories in terms of enterprises' readiness to embrace digital technology. The digitization of SMEs is delayed due to poor awareness of the benefits of online connectivity; the idea that digitalization is expensive; lack of opportunities to access investment capital; and people's cash spending habit and concerns about security.

Considering the above-mentioned issues, the article provides some suggestions for women start up and women-owned enterprises to overcome the challenges and embrace the opportunity of digital transformation:

First, enterprises need to be aware that "Digitalization is not an option but an inevitable need, not an expense but an investment". In particular, in the midst of the Covid-19 epidemic crisis, “there is little or no choice at all for them but to go digital, especially considering that containment measures will likely persist for some time or need to be re-introduced ”- said Denis Hew, Director of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Policy Support Unit (report “Supporting MSMEs’ digitalization amid Covid-19").

Second, training human resources to meet requirements and master relevant skills such as creativity and innovation. At the same time upgrading processes, building culture in response to new business model.

Third, changing leadership mindset, being innovative and creative. Proactively formulating a long-term development strategy, overcoming all challenges and barriers, embracing opportunities and benefits brought by digital technology.

To conclude, digital economic development is an inevitable trend for enterprises, including the ones run by women. This is the foundation for a strong transition from natural resource intensive and low cost labor to knowledge economy, thus creating economic growth engines for Vietnam.


Translated by VWU International Relations Department