ENABLING IMPROVED SUPPORT DELIVERY THROUGH DIGITAL PLATFORMS
The Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) and its agencies, seda and sefa, are committed to more extensive use of digital technology to support not only effective small business support but also improved collaboration between key stakeholders at the District level, in alignment with Government’s District Delivery Model.
While sefa already has a seamless on-line funding application and loan management platform, the DSBD’s digital platform approach focuses on the development of a national SMME database, which will include a seda District Information Management System (DIMS) to co-ordinate localised small business support.
Since March 2020, the DSBD has begun using the www.smmesa.gov.za platform (SmmeSA) to enable applications for various Covid-19 relief and support programmes – in the process taking the first steps towards building a national SMME database geared specifically to supporting entrepreneur development and access to market.
The system is also currently enabling SMMEs to register products that fall under the Government’s localisation strategy, which supports producers of 1,000 listed products to access retail and other supply chains. With more small businesses registering daily, SmmeSA is solely but surely on its way to becoming Government’s central registry of small businesses.
This database will, over time, add features and functionality so that it becomes the single point of access for all Government small business support. For example, the system will be able to pro-actively remind business owners to update their compliance documentation, as well as notify SMMEs of new funding and business support programmes. Business tools, resources, templates and advice will also be accessible on the platform.
By enabling Government to “see” where businesses are, and in what sectors they are operating, as well as survey them on key needs and challenges, SmmeSA will provide improved national data to help shape programmes and interventions that respond to small business needs.
At a local level, Seda’s DIMS will operate in each district as a linked system to SmmeSA, closely aligned to the Government’s District Delivery Model economic development co-ordinating committees.
DIMS will be of practical benefit to private Business Development Services (BDS) providers, Municipal Local Economic Development (LED) officials, corporates and incubators – and of course, small businesses in each District. It will allow for the logging of BDS interventions, create a communication network, and enable the dissemination of opportunities. SMMEs will be able to set up their business profiles to be visible to corporates and State-owned Enterprise (SOEs), thus supporting improved access to vendor databases.
DIMS will create a comprehensive SMME and BDS ecosystem data picture of every District, supporting local SMME support co-ordinating committees to pool resources, jointly address challenges and co-operate on implementation of support interventions.
These integrated digital platform initiatives perform different functions, but through their shared database and linkages have the potential to support improved collaboration, information-sharing and access to financial and non-financial support for SMMEs.