"Integrating Small to Medium Businesses (SMB) into the digital economy"

Jack attended the 2018 OECD Forum in Paris. Jack is currently studying a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne Faculty of Business and Economics and is also an Outgoing Exchange Manager for AIESEC Melbourne. 

Abstract

Small to medium-sized businesses (SMB) are fundamental components of the Australian economy and inextricably linked to middle-class welfare. With over 2.1 million SMB in Australia, they constitute two-thirds of the economy’s jobs and over half of private sector economic activity (Deloitte, 2017). With the rise of globalisation and the rapid growth of technology in the last two decades, the transition to a digital economy poses both risks and opportunities for SMB. Research has found that 87% of Australian SMB are not taking full advantage of the digital tools available to them, especially in regional areas. Given that SMB adoption of these digital tools can add $49.2 billion in untapped economic potential over the next 10 years (NPV), SMB adoption rates not only impact future economic growth and living standards but, on a broader level, impacts Australia’s capacity to compete on an international level (PWC, 2018). 

As such, the Australian Government has a clear prerogative to assist SMB. Although the reasons why digital technology is underutilised by SMB vary by geography, industry and characteristics of owners, recent reports have highlighted reoccurring themes of: a lack of education and training; limited financing opportunities; and a decentralised and disjointed support system, as key factors hindering their adoption of new technologies (Deloitte, 2017). With the rapid pace of digital technology making it difficult for SMB to stay on top of best practices, this report recommends that the Australian government establish a website and toolbox that can provide businesses with easy to understand information. Paired with a comprehensive marketing campaign, this website would assist in communicating the benefits of digitalisation whilst developing SMB digital capabilities. With the rollout of the NBN and other digital infrastructure projects taking place in remote areas of Australia, coupling this with streamlined training and information will assist in overcoming the divide between regional and urban SMB. Additionally, this report recommends developing a small business network to support the promotion of community digitalisation.

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Financing our future: the potential of Social Impact Investment to address the growing service gap in Australian health and aged care

By Sabina Lim

Sabina represented the University of Melbourne Faculty of Business and Economics at the 2016 OECD Forum in Paris.  

Abstract

As Australia enters a new economic era defined by the end of the mining boom, the Australian government must grapple with the challenges of ‘an ageing population, a challenging budget repair task and ever-increasing expectations around social expenditure’ (Fraser, 2015). Critically, a key issue for government will be finding sustainable methods of financing to meet current and rapidly expanding obligations in health and aged care services. The need for new, innovative financing models is increasingly relevant in today’s economic setting.

Social Impact Investing (SII, or impact investing) is one field that has been gaining traction in recent years and whose potential has been recognised by bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and members of the G8 Taskforce for Social Impact Investment, established in 2013. Social impact investments are made into organisations, projects or funds with the intention of generating positive social and environmental outcomes, alongside a financial return. Impact investments in the United Kingdom and United States have already demonstrated potential to address service gaps in health and aged care sectors.

With the Australian impact investing market still in its nascent stages, the government is in a unique position to play a significant role in fostering its development. Targeting health and ageing as a priority area, supporting the establishment of an independent market intermediary, breaking down regulatory barriers to investment, and providing direct leadership and engagement are all critical to harness its potential and help unlock capital in a market estimated to reach A$32 billion domestically over the next decade (Addis, McCutchan & Munro, 2015).

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Quarterly Access Journal: Matthew Sinclair Contributor

Matthew attended the 2014 World Trade Organisation in Geneva where he represented the University of Melbourne Faculty of Business and Economics. As part of the Global Voices Scholarship Matthew researched agricultural trade in the Asia-Pacific Region. His research was published in the Australian Institute of International Affairs journal Quarterly Access. You can read his research here or copy the following URL into your browser http://bit.ly/mattsinclairQA

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Quarterly Access Journal: Nicholas Taylor Contributor

Nicholas attended the 2013 World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings in Washington DC where he represented the University of Melbourne FBE. As part of the Global Voices Scholarship, Nicholas researched how to bridge the global infrastructure gap. His research was published in the Australian Institute of International Affairs journal Quarterly Access. You can read his research here or copy the following URL into your browser http://www.internationalaffairs.org.au/bridging-the-global-infrastructure-gap/