Emerging Trends | SMEs/Entrepreneurship
September 13, 2019

The world’s SMEs come to Budapest: ITU Telecom World 2019

By ITU News

The winners of the ITU Telecom World 2019 SME Award have been announced.

The award recognizes promising innovative technology-based solutions with social impact. This year, five small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from around the world were recognized for innovative work in the field of technology for development.

  • Host Country SME Awards: Tresorit, Hungary
  • Best business model: Vokacom, Ghana
  • Most innovative use of ICT: Immersion4, Switzerland
  • Most scalable solution: Prime Molecular Technologies Africa, South Africa
  • Greatest social impact: UX Information Technologies, Mozambique

The Government award recognizes the Government that supported and enabled the most innovative SMEs to attend ITU Telecom World and take part in the SME and Awards programmes. This year, the award went to Mozambique.

SMEs: at the frontline of today’s digital transformation

SMEs are at the heart of ITU Telecom; over 150 SMEs from 40 countries were present at this year’s event, showcasing their solutions to enhance the global digital economy.

“Nothing makes me happier than seeing these SMEs use our leading global platform to create new opportunities and use ICTs as a force for good. These SMEs are the engine and the future of the digital economy,” ITU Secretary General, Houlin Zhao, said at the ITU Telecom World 2019 Farewell Reception.

SMEs benefit from a wide programme designed to support growth and boost their global impact. This included: pitching sessions, SME Masterclasses, networking and matchmaking; and the ITU Telecom World Awards.

Pitching Sessions and SME Masterclasses

SMEs from around the world had the opportunity to promote their business to a wide and diverse audience at the pitching sessions on the exhibition showfloor at the heart of ITU Telecom World.

Over 70 SMEs had just five minutes to present their business to a panel of judges, representatives from the technology industry and ITU, who looked at financing, reach and scalability.

“I was super impressed to find the calibre of international SMEs,” Valentina Primo, CEO of Startups Without Borders, and one of the judges of the SME pitching session said. “They’re tackling poverty, they’re tackling employment, they’re tackling maternal deaths in places where innovation is not just needed, it’s fundamental.”

SMEs also had the opportunity to develop and enhance skills in capacity-building investor-led masterclasses covering a wide range of topics, with a focus on business attributes required for SME emerging on the world stage.

SMEs are at the heart of ITU Telecom; over 150 SMEs from 40 countries were present at this year’s event, showcasing their solutions to enhance the global digital economy.

These included ‘Storytelling for start-ups: creating a pitch that captures media and audience’, ‘Impact investing and blended finance’ and ‘Intellectual property in the ICT sector’.

A place to connect and grow your business

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits for SMEs attending ITU Telecom World is the change to mingle and network with representatives from the international technology ecosystem – including government telecom ministries, big technology companies such as Huawei and Rhode Schwarz, and other exhibiting SMEs.

“Building strong relationships with the people here is fundamental to the growth of a start-up or SME; you don’t just need funding, training and knowledge, you also need to connect with people,” Primo said. “The connections that I was able to make here, and the potential of gathering people from all around the world in one space is immense; the impact is immense.”

“I’ve been able to share ideas with people from different backgrounds, people from different IT solution companies,” said Okwusogu Chizoba, Sales Account Manager at Coollink, which was the second finalist in the best business model category of the ITU Telecom World 2019 SME Award.

Coollink provides internet services to rural areas in Nigeria working to bridge the 67% connectivity gap within the country through affordable and flexible satellite broadband technology solutions.

“We’ve been able to get some people that we can actually engage in some kind of partnership to move our business the next level,” she said.

“Nothing makes me happier than seeing these SMEs use our leading global platform to create new opportunities and use ICTs as a force for good. ITU Secretary General, Houlin Zhao

Similarly, small- and medium-sized enterprises present at the event were able to network with public and private sector leaders and find potential partnerships to grow their business.

“Right after my presentation, it was now easy to approach the [country] booths. So I went to Burundi, Mozambique, Rwanda and they said, ‘yes, we hear your solution, I think we will need it’,” said Richmond Frimpong, Managing Director of AsaaseGPS.

The app solves the challenge of addressing in Africa generating a unique address within a matter of minutes for any location – including slums and rural areas. The system assigns a unique digital address to every five meter square of landed property using the Universal Postal Union standard of address.

“So it broke the ice and it has given us more access into the economies of Sub-Saharan Africa that really need a solution,” he said.

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The world’s SMEs come to Budapest: ITU Telecom World 2019

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