Digital technologies are indispensable for the functioning of economies, societies and individual lives around the world. As our personal and professional activities have moved online in response to the COVID-19 crisis, we have adapted to the challenges of living, working and learning remotely – and experienced first-hand just how dependent we are on digital infrastructure, services and applications.

The road to economic and social recovery is a digital one. And in a recent UN series of high-profile online roundtables, governments from Italy to Vietnam, Mauritius, Spain and Trinidad and Tobago highlighted the importance of fostering the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in building back economies post-pandemic.

SMEs: driving digital transformation

Representing more than 90 per cent of all businesses worldwide, SMEs play a significant role in national economic growth and job creation, as well as offering a path out of poverty for many developing countries. This is particularly true of tech SMEs – the source of innovative ICT-enabled solutions with the power to change the world, and the engine driving digital transformation.  


So now more than ever we need creative SMEs with innovative tech solutions – and tech SMEs, start-ups and entrepreneurs needs support and encouragement from the industry and from government.

 The ITU Virtual Digital World SME Awards & Masterclasses are an opportunity to recognize excellent innovative tech solutions, build resilience and encourage investment in tech SMEs amid the COVID-19 crisis.  

The Virtual SME Masterclasses are a series of expert-led, free online webinars offering practical tools, professional insights and guidance on international best practices for SMEs in productivity, pitching and scaling up. Run by experienced practitioners, the masterclasses are open to everyone and provide opportunities to learn more on the cybersecurity landscape for SMEs, build better management approaches, hone pitching skills and learn how to break into new markets. 


SME Masterclasses: the details

The series kicks off on 11 November with experts from the International Labour Organization introducing globally-recognized management techniques with proven significant impact on enterprise level performance in “Achieving high levels of productivity and quality in your business.”  

This is followed by “Keeping safe in cyberspace: cybersecurity for SMEs” on Thursday 12 November, led by the Global Cyber Alliance and the Cyber Readiness Institute, focusing on the importance of cyber hygiene – and how human behaviour is just as important as software updates and strong passwords in protecting your data and business online. 


The International Trade Centre presents “The ultimate tech start-up guide to international expansion” on 18 November, with case studies, best practices and guidelines for tech SMEs aiming to expand internationally, entrepreneurs, tech hubs, and anyone interested in the growing tech ecosystem. 

The series is rounded off on 23 November with “Preparing the investor pitch deck,” a practical guide to structuring and presenting a successful investor-targeted pitch, delivered by The Startup Club.  

Find out more and register online here 

ITU Digital World SME Awards 

The SME Masterclasses form part of the ITU Digital World SME Awards, which have been an integral part of ITU Digital World physical events since 2015, attracting growing numbers of applicants each year and providing many success stories. The Awards recognize SMEs with innovative tech solutions working for real social impact – offering UN credibility, mentorship, partnership and business opportunities.

“This Award took us to a new level, with many invitations to participate in events, and talk about our product– and we’ve been approached by several entities who would like to pilot the solution.Mulweli Rebolo of Ologa Sistemas, Mozambique 

Like so many other events, progammes and initiatives, the Awards have moved online this year. As a result, the opportunities for in-person networking may have been reduced, but the global reach of the virtual Awards has never been greater – applications from innovative tech SMEs came in from all corners of the world before the October deadline.

The finalists in each category – connectivity, smart living, digital finance and e-health – have been selected by a jury of experts of industry specialists, investors and innovation hubs, and are all set to battle it out in live pitching sessions from 30 November. Those pitching sessions are open to all to watch, and will culminate in the crowning of the winners in each category in the online Awards Ceremony on 7 December.

The Virtual SME Awards and Masterclasses are a small but important part of strengthening SMEs and the potential for digital transformation and economic growth that they represent – for developed and developing markets alike. And it has never been more important than now to support tech SMEs in the drive for economic and social recovery.

So join us online this November for the ITU Virtual Digital World 2020 SME Masterclasses. More global, more open, more opportunities for all. 

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