Digital entrepreneurship is gaining more and more popularity as digitalisation and new technologies drives innovation, creating new business opportunities and boosting productivity. But what exactly is Digital entrepreneurship and what are the benefits? Jonathan P Allen explains it in the following way: “Digital entrepreneurship includes everything that is new and different about entrepreneurship in a digital world, including:
• New ways of finding customers for entrepreneurial ventures.
• New ways of designing and offering products, and services.
• New ways of generating revenue, and reducing cost.
• New opportunities to collaborate with platforms and partners.
• New sources of opportunity, risk, and competitive advantage.”
What is more, new technologies and platforms hold also potential for strengthening social and economic inclusion given the lower barriers to entry for many digital businesses.
However, there are also relevant challenges that should be overcome to promote innovative and digital businesses, especially amongst the most under-represented groups within digital entrepreneurship such as young, seniors, immigrants and women (European Startup Monitor, 2020). This is particularly relevant in these times when pandemic affected these most yet-vulnerable categories. They face increased unemployment (for instance, while the EU unemployment rate is at 7.3%, the youth unemployment rate is at 17.1% – Eurostat, 2021) and have less job opportunities.
One of the key issues is a lack of basic digital skills which hinders an individual’s ability to be successful in creating digital businesses or adopting digital technologies if they are already self-employed. This is especially evident amongst female, seniors or immigrants. They often experiment limited access to life-enhancing and life-saving information, mobile banking, microfinance, e-commerce and e-learning. In fact, in 2019 in developing economies, 52% of women did not use the Internet (G20 2020).
As stated by US Vice President Kamala Harris, inclusive entrepreneurship is the future, yet it is important to keep in mind that not everybody starts from the same base and actions must be taken to address this problem (Forbes, 2021). Therefore, enhancing digital literacy and digital skills are crucial in today’s society for guaranteeing social inclusion and economy growth.
To this end, as outlined by OECD, there is need for tailored training programmes that would “simultaneously help students acquire digital skills and entrepreneurship skills, and understand how these skillsets can be used together” (OECD, 2019).
Thus, governments should invest is new educational programmes as well as should establish favourable political ecosystem that would stimulate creation of digital businesses and transformation of the existing once to reduce the risk of failure.
In the EU scenario, social inclusion through digital entrepreneurship has been recently discussed at the EU Social Summit in Porto in May 2021. All EU Member States committed themselves to, among others, include the participation of at least 60% of adults in training activities each year and the reduction by at least 15 million of the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion. As highlighted by EC President Ursula von der Leyen, “Europe’s social goals must go hand in hand with its ecological and digital goals. We want to move towards full employment, give more Europeans access to the skills they need and ensure equal opportunities for all in a more digital and sustainable economy”.
In in this context, the Missing Entrepreneurs Project arise with the aim of enhancing digital and entrepreneurial skills of women, immigrants, youth and seniors, promoting digital and inclusive entrepreneurship. Our ambition is to provide hands-on trainings for people underrepresented or with a disadvantaged background to help them to take advantage of new technologies and related to them business opportunities.
The Missing Entrepreneurs Project has already reached its first milestone: the completion of the first Intellectual Output which outlines the situations on the skills gaps as well as relevant policies and good practices for inclusive digital entrepreneurship in the Project countries (France, Portugal, Cyprus, Italy, Spain and Austria). The full report will be available soon on the project website.