Digital Tools & COVID-19: WTO Webinar Recap
Explore how entrepreneurs are using technology to connect with their customers, teams and partners during COVID-19
May 6, 2020
On May 6, the Global Innovation Forum, in partnership with the Australian Mission to the World Trade Organization, hosted a digital forum in support of the World Trade Organization’s Joint Statement Initiative on e-commerce to explore how small and innovative businesses are utilizing digital tools to succeed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
GIF’s Executive Director Jake Colvin moderated a panel discussion with small business leaders from around the world focused on how COVID-19 has impacted their businesses and how they have adjusted to rely more heavily on digital tools and strategies. The panel was followed by several interventions from experts and technology leaders to highlight the specific policies that need to be prioritized.
Founder & Director, Earth Heir
Sasi founded Earth Heir in 2013 as a social business focusing on luxury craftsmanship and showcasing the skills and traditions of craftspeople. She has a background in investment banking, private equity, non-profit/development agencies, mining, finance, sustainable development, corporate responsibility, and micro-finance whilst having lived in eight countries over four continents. She is absolutely passionate about issues pertaining to environmental sustainability, ecotech and traveling.
About Earth Heir
Earth Heir works with over 100 artisans from women’s cooperatives, indigenous tribes and refugee groups, across six states of Malaysia.
By combining traditional artisanal skills with modern, contemporary design, Earth Heir is a true celebration of Malaysia’s varied heritage art forms and unique cultural narratives.
Rafael Figueroa is the CEO of Portal Telemedicina, a Startup that created a revolutionary Medical Telediagnostic Platform, which provides access to medical specialists for millions of patients across 300 cities in Brazil and Africa. Rafael led the research of AILA – Artificial Intelligence Life Analytics from FAPESP – São Paulo Research Foundation, coordinated the government R&D grant on IoT applied to digital healthcare and founded Sociedade Verde (Green Society), an NGO that brings technology like solar energy, drones, and internet to rural families.
About Portal Telemedicina
Portal Telemedicina is a Brazilian IT company specialized in health services that was founded to solve the difficulties in specialists access. By means of an innovative platform based on artificial intelligence and machine learning, doctors can send virtual reports to hospitals in any Brazilian location in real time.
The website is available 24/7 and offers a group of renowned specialists, such as neurologists, cardiologists, radiologists who are expert in Occupational Medicine and ILO-related issues, pulmonologists, specialists in CT scans and MRIs, ophthalmologists, neuropediatricians and neurosurgeons.
CEO, Portal Telemedicina
Founder & CEO, AnaOno
Diagnosed with breast cancer at 27, Dana Donofree founded AnaOno out of her own necessity and desire for pretty, sexy, beautiful lingerie. After a bilateral mastectomy with implant reconstruction her own bras no longer fit and she was certain there must be more than just sports bras and camisoles (as nothing in the traditional lingerie market fit her surgically-altered body any more). With a degree in fashion design from Savannah College of Art and Design, and a quite successful fashion industry career, she took her 10+ years’ experience and put it toward designing, launching and growing AnaOno.
AnaOno is not just a bra. We design intimates for women that have undergone breast surgery, often related to a cancer diagnosis. Our focus is on the WHOLE woman, not just her breasts. Every piece is designed with intention to meet the specific needs of these customers and patients that are not met by traditional lingerie options.
Our collections are made for those with one breast, two breasts, no breasts or new breasts, because we know that breasts don’t define the woman, the way she feels does.
Mr. Ekezie is the Co-Founder of Transboxx Technologies. He is also the Co-Founder of one of the fastest growing and largest Internet travel sites in Africa, Wakanow.com. He is also the Chairman of the Board for Consolidated Hallmark Insurance PLC. One of Nigeria’s leading insurance companies. He studied Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland and attended the Robert H. Smith College of Business, Maryland U.S.A and graduated with a Minor degree in IBM Total Quality Mgt.
About Transboxx Technologies
Transboxx Technologies was established to provide quality software products to corporate and individual clients.
Our aim is to become the leading provider of I.T. solutions in Africa. We are extremely committed to delivering quality advice, sales and support to assist our clients to achieve the maximum from their I.T. investment. Transboxx Technologies focus is to provide a long term I.T. partnerships with our clients.
Co-Founder, Transboxx Technologies
Here’s what they had to say. . .
Digital Tools & COVID-19
Earth Heir has been using many tools during the COVID-19 lockdown in Malaysia. We use Shopify for our e-commerce website, Intuit Quickbooks for invoicing delivery orders and PayPal for international donations. . . We’ve used Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn extensively to share our progress and issue communications and updates to our donors about how their money is being used.
Right now, the digital space is being heavily leveraged for consumer activity and customer support. There is a world now where consumers are being forced, a bit more, to do their shopping online and trust online services. . . We are relying a lot on our platforms such as LiveChat, Shopify, Mailchimp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest as direct communication lines back to our consumers who are looking for quick, reliable sources of information as they continue to shop.
Portal Telemedica has become a tool for collaboration. The doctors who are not a part of the COVID-19 workflow were doing consultations and diagnostics through platforms not made for healthcare because they could not be at the hospitals. . . They needed to take care of their patients remotely and they were not using healthcare tools to do it. So we took all of the tools we already had, which are encrypted and follow GDPR and other data protection regulations, and offered the tools to doctors to do consultations and diagnostics through videos embedded in our platform. . . Data protection laws vary a lot from country to country. There are regulations in Brazil and in all of the countries that we work in, but the laws are not as sophisticated as they are in Europe. Four years ago we decided to follow the strictest laws so that we would be compliant with all laws.
For Wakanow, as a travel company, we are using digital tools to be proactive. . . Social Media has been especially important. People are worried about the state of travel and there are a lot of rumors circulating. Quick access to social media to correct misinformation is crucial. . . For Transboxx Technologies, we are using tools like video conferencing for meetings with potential clients. We use multiple channels—Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Skype—it is important to have access to all of the options.
What Would You Say to WTO Negotiators?
This new world that we are living in will not go back to as it was before. We have to be more digital. I have almost 3,000 doctors on our platform and they want to collaborate with other countries and donate their time. They need to use telemedicine and telediagnosis as a platform because of the pandemic. However, if you are not a locally licensed doctor in each country you can not practice medicine there. We are strategizing and wondering how to modernize this type of trade between countries. . . We think that this kind of international trade and international health care regulations should be top of mind for the WTO and WHO.
We now live in a world that is really connected. Meetings are happening globally and we are dealing with global issues. Organizations like the WTO and countries creating new policies need to recognize that we live in an interconnected, global world. I think that countries are going to be more open to addressing their own self needs, but also considering the fact that we live in a global market.
We need to ask, ‘how do we cross borders through commerce while making it accessible?’ Products are being made around the world, so they need to be accessible in a global commerce strategy instead of thinking country-specific. I think that that would help small businesses, global growth and access.
One of the major challenges for us as an e-commerce business is customs. The idea of figuring out tax and customs import codes and shipping logistics is one of the most complex issues for a small business.
The Role of Digital Trade Policies
The small business panelists and other stakeholders emphasized the importance of clarity and improvements to the existing framework of trade rules and commitments as the World Trade Organization engages in an exercise to write new rules aimed at facilitating the use of e-commerce.
Governments have a critical role to play in ensuring that regulations enable the entire e-commerce ecosystem and empower businesses to succeed globally using online platforms, payments, communication tools and other e-commerce channels, and to improve the ability of businesses of all sizes to benefit from digital technologies.
Successful efforts by the WTO would:
We need to identify what rules and regulations support or hinder SMEs engaged in digital trade and the digital tools and platforms they rely on to do so. This includes new issues or barriers to digital trade around data, data protection, payments, and also the traditional barriers that have an outsized impact on SMEs, like slow and costly trade facilitation and customs.
While COVID-19 has stimulated new ways of working and more use of digital tools, we know from our existing research, both domestically and internationally, that there are many barriers for smaller firms engaged in digital trade. In the domestic sense, this ranges from access to reliable digital infrastructures, such as fast broadband and mobile coverage, having the requisite digital skills and better adoption of digital technologies. Internationally, problems with delivering tangible goods, customs issues, unequal or unclear application of local rules or tax policies. . . difficulties receiving electronic payments, different data protection requirements, localization rules and intellectual property infringements continue to plague small businesses in the cross border context.