In its first research paper, the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute, or VEEI, which surveyed 3,000 firms across Brazil, Colombia, Malaysia, Philippines and South Africa, found that recovery looks bright for countries where the government has supported the digitization of small businesses. The goal of the study is to provide insights that can assist policymakers in creating a digitally enabled future for individuals and small businesses to thrive.

Notably, the study follows the third installment of Visa’s global “Back to Business” study, which found 82 percent of small businesses globally had embraced digital technology to meet evolving consumer behaviors by the end of 2020.

Overall, VEEI’s survey found firms are optimistic for the future, with responses indicating enthusiasm for continued digital development. Among other trends, the report found that firms who have embraced digital commerce before and during the pandemic have navigated the pandemic more successfully than those limited to relying on in-person transactions.

In fact, according to the data, more small businesses in these countries said they want improved internet connectivity, assistance with digital commerce and help with cybersecurity over direct financial support from governments.

“[In our survey], one of the factors that we found to be quite significant was government programs that helped small businesses gain access to technology that could help them digitize their business,” said Barbara Kotschwar, executive director of the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute. “An overwhelming majority of MSMEs prioritized help in digitizing their sales channels, access to better internet connectivity and improving their digital payments capabilities. Many of the surveyed companies said these would be the most helpful forms of assistance in the next three to six months and into the future.”

To help small businesses thrive, the authors of the report further stated, “instead of requiring a specific solution or technology, policymakers should focus on ensuring that any new payment initiative improves existing end-user outcomes.”

Further, Kotschwar said, there needs to be a real effort across the globe to ensure an open payment ecosystem and strong standards are just one aspect of the growing global market.

“On a macro level, there’s going to be much more emphasis on building up the basic infrastructure, including electricity, internet connectivity and cellular broadband,” Kotschwar said. “All of these need to be in place as we enter this digital era of business. That’s the big challenge to governments and international organizations that help governments. There needs to be a sort of Marshall Plan for digitization across the globe.”

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