Specifically, the key objectives of this road  map are to activate no less than 100,000 MSMEs into e-commerce in the next four years and enable them to contribute significantly to the Philippine economy.

At present, there are 950,000 DTI-listed MSMEs—89 percent of which are at the micro level—accounting for 35 percent of the country’s GDP.

“It’s low [compared to] other neighboring countries that reach around 45 percent. So we want to hit 45 percent by 2020, or maybe by the end of the [Duterte] administration. We would like to look at that in our MSME Development Plan so we can really see their big contribution to the economy because 63 percent of jobs come from this sector,” Maglaya told reporters at the launch last week of Ureka E-Cadets Program in Mandaluyong City.

By law, the DTI is mandated to build Negosyo Centers in all provinces, cities and municipalities.□

“And that’s about more than 1,600. But we are not doing this in one big blow. We’re doing this strategically to make sure we are in the right places, covering the cities first, then the first-class and second-class municipalities where we have really the proliferation of our MSMEs and where the resources are. So if we’re looking at the 2020 Plan, hopefully, by then, I would say we should have Negosyo Centers in each of these cities and municipalities, with the help of the local government [units] and budget support, of course, from the DBM [Department of Budget and Management],” she said.

Currently, there are 382 Negosyo Centers established across the country that provide service and assistance to MSMEs—from giving information to promoting their business, as well as creating product design, development and marketing in a most efficient and cost-effective way.

“We could have a total of about 400 [Negosyo Centers] before the end of the year and another 150 by next year,” she said.

The trade agency has partnered with the Ureka Forum—the country’s most comprehensive e-commerce mass conversion movement—for the youth-based project called the E-Cadets Program, which serves as a training ground for students where they learn the basics of onboarding and converting traditional entrepreneurs from the brick-and-mortar business model to “brick-to-click” through a complete and one-stop online shop setup.

“A thriving SME sector, where even the humble local producers profit and enjoy the same kind of attention as the bigger, more established ones, is vital in promoting economic growth that is truly inclusive and sustainable,” said Union Bank of the Philippines EVP and Ureka lead proponent Genaro Lapez. “Through the Ureka E-Cadets Program, we intend to collaborate with academe and pave the way for these homegrown businesses to rise as global enterprises.”

Throughout the entire course of this program, students from business, commerce, information technology and computer science/studies degrees will be taught on how to strategically and effectively recruit SMEs and help them set up digital shops online. This will be done using a full-service platform, complete with a payment channel and a logistics partner.

As for the program’s launch, Lapez told the BusinessMirror they have already enlisted around 350 students comprising the first batch of E-Cadets. He said they plan to conduct the training on a quarterly basis starting in 2017, with around 250 student-participants, to reach over 4,000 E-Cadets that could be of help in achieving the 2020 PECR.

“The Ureka E-Cadets initiative supports the mandate of the DTI to bring more Filipinos into the global e-commerce stage. Through this program, we aim to expose the E-Cadets to a more strategic and more practical ecosystem of doing e-commerce and integrating business innovation,” Lapez said.

Seeing the impact of the program to the road map, Maglaya lauded the academic sector, particularly the students, for being an “added force” to achieve their target.

“What we want to happen is for our MSMEs to really try it and to be confident enough to really do marketing through e-commerce. And I would believe that with the E-Cadets—who can help them really set this up, teach them how to do it, make them more confident because they know that there’s someone who can help them and hold them all the way—would really be a good way to do this and be able to achieve what we want to happen by 2020 or even earlier,” she said.

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