Over 400 people participate in a webinar organised by the SCO Secretariat

Digital Actions for Entrepreneurs in the COVID-19 Epoch: Key Lessons from Alibaba

On 28 May 2020, the SCO Secretariat, jointly with Alibaba Group and the SCOLAR Network youth platform, held a webinar titled "Digital Actions for Entrepreneurs in the COVID-19 Epoch: Key Lessons from Alibaba." The event's main guest was Brian Alan Wong, Vice-President, Global Initiatives, Alibaba Group.

Other guests of honour were Chairman of the SCO Youth Council and Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Economic Policy, Industry, Innovation Development and Entrepreneurship Denis Kravchenko, Coordinator of the International Youth Business Incubator for SCO Countries at the All-China Youth Federation Jia Tiesong, and Executive Secretary of the SCO Business Council Sergei Kanavsky.

The online event was joined by over 400 people from 45 states representing SCO countries, South-East Asia, Africa, Europe and America.

SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov said in his opening remarks that the topics covered by the webinar, including a digital solution for entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 pandemic and key lessons from Alibaba, were quite important and timely.

"Today, all our countries have faced the threat of the pandemic, which is a serious challenge for the entire international community; it is threatening people's lives and health and has had a negative impact on the socioeconomic development of states. According to an IMF report, the world economy will shrink by 6.3 percent by the end of this year. According to the WTO, world trade is likely to plummet by more than 30 percent during this year", he stressed.

"Under these difficult circumstances, our governments have to take difficult decisions to protect people's health, strengthen the public healthcare system, and restore the economy. At the same time, the SCO countries are demonstrating a high level of solidarity and cooperation, and regularly maintain high- and top-level contacts. There is also collaboration between ministries and agencies, medics, scientists, and relevant specialists. The member-states are not only sharing best practices but are also rendering each other financial, economic, food and humanitarian aid. I am confident that this joint effort will help the SCO countries to pass the test honourably and emerge from the current predicament with a stronger spirit", he said.

In the context of the pandemic many countries have been increasingly active in introducing information and communication technologies in healthcare, trade, education and finance, Vladimir Norov noted. Companies selling online goods and services are playing a significant role and are becoming an important driver of support for the population during the isolation caused by the lockdown. During the pandemic, e-commerce has contributed to the creation of new jobs, involving women, youth, and vulnerable groups.

As the SCO Secretary-General emphasised, one of the successful enterprises in this industry is Alibaba, a globally recognised leader. Thanks to innovative thinking and a far-sighted approach, the company was able to promptly introduce new technologies and modern solutions to prevent the spread of the virus, provide help to people and protect medical personnel, as well as support small and medium-sized enterprises. During the coronavirus pandemic, the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba are providing humanitarian assistance to many countries, including the SCO "family."

In Vladimir Norov's opinion, small and medium-sized businesses are making a significant contribution to the economy, creating much needed jobs. In this regard, there is a need to support such enterprises in order to provide them with a real chance of remaining in business during the pandemic. "A sustainable private sector, which will be fostered in advance, will ensure a faster recovery after the pandemic," the SCO Secretary-General said.

He also noted that Alibaba Global Initiatives has released a handbook, "Digital Actions for Entrepreneurs in the COVID-19 Epoch: Key Lessons from Alibaba," which provides an important source for exploring the company's experience in addressing the coronavirus pandemic using digital, innovative solutions and mobile apps, as well as supporting small and medium-sized businesses in order to overcome the COVID-19 crisis.

"The pandemic has made it clear that digitalisation and information and communication technologies are absolutely necessary for the continued functioning of the economy and society. The modern world is on the verge of an unprecedented and revolutionary technological change.

The second age of the digital revolution involving the synergy of artificial intelligence, 5G ultrafast networks, big data, robotics, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, bio and nanotechnology, should link the digital economy with the real world of production," Vladimir Norov underscored.

"The SCO region, home to almost half of the global population, is a huge market for implementing joint innovative projects in IT and the digital economy," the SCO Secretary-General said.

The SCO Secretariat strives to closely cooperate with the Alibaba Group and other companies in the digital economy, so as to help the 800 million-plus young people in SCO countries actively use information and communications technologies, expand digital businesses and trade.

"On 26 August 2019, Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma supported the idea of expanding mutually beneficial cooperation between the SCO Secretariat and the company in this direction at our meeting in Chongqing and during the SMART CHINA EXPO — 2019 international exhibition," Vladimir Norov noted. "Unfortunately, over 1.5 billion young people are in lockdown all over the world these days, and these projects aim to make this process more constructive and creative. The younger generation is the most progressive and advanced part of any society, and they generate new ideas. We must do our very best to allow every young person the world over to access modern information technologies and to become completely involved in a new digital future which is currently emerging," the SCO Secretary-General noted.

"We have organised a joint webinar allowing entrepreneurs and the younger generation from SCO member states to use the available opportunities and to unlock their tremendous potential for expanding digital technology businesses during the pandemic, so that they would help their countries strengthen the healthcare system and restore the economy," he pointed out.

In this connection, the 2020 Spring Thunder initiative, announced by Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang, deserves special attention as well as support.

"The initiative aims to expand the company's commercial potential and technologies, used by the company for the past 20 years to create a digital infrastructure for helping entrepreneurs, small and medium-sized businesses to survive this economic slump," Vladimir Norov said in conclusion.

The SCO Secretary-General also told webinar participants about novel coronavirus prevention and treatment projects that have been jointly implemented by the SCO Secretariat and Alibaba Group.

Chairman of the SCO Youth Council Denis Kravchenko informed the participants in detail about Russia's efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection and to counter COVID-19 and its consequences. In his opinion, the pandemic-caused difficulties are directly affecting the economy, cooperation, economic processes and direct human contacts. "The global financial and raw materials markets are highly volatile. The spread of the coronavirus has had an adverse impact on all spheres of life, due to which the economies of all countries without exception are sustaining billion dollar losses," he emphasised.

Mr Kravchenko noted that the pandemic has revealed the urgent need for prompt and smooth cooperation of all countries, concentration of the available scientific and economic potentials and uniform approaches to countering a common biological threat.

"The reality has shown that not all countries share these principles. The SCO can set an example of constructive efforts. By uniting the experience of Russia with its good record in countering the coronavirus, India that is famous for its pharmaceuticals industry and China with its vast epidemiological experience, it is possible to establish an effectively operating international centre where experts from different countries will work together to prevent and monitor epidemics in the border areas of the SCO member countries," Mr Kravchenko said.

Coordinator of the International Youth Business Incubator for the SCO countries of the All-China Youth Federation Jia Tesong described the contribution of the Chinese youth to countering the new COVID-19 infection. "About 108 million young residents of China have taken part in these efforts. Some two million people have been provided with jobs," he said and expressed willingness to develop cooperation with youth organisations of the CIS member countries to jointly implement China-proposed project of the International Youth Business Incubator for the SCO countries.

Brian Alan Wong was the main speaker at the webinar. He is a leading manager with over 20 years' experience of work in e-commerce and digital media in Southeast Asia, India, the United States and Europe. He presented to the participants the most topical practices for small and medium-sized companies and pointed to the problems faced by large companies and governments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also proposed a number of solutions for restoring business now and the post-epidemic period.

During the event, the participants asked over 40 questions on organising online business, developing e-commerce, planning logistics and signing contracts in the e-market commerce. Users were also interested in receiving education in the Alibaba Business School and countering the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences.

In conclusion, SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov noted the importance of holding such online events for promoting creative ideas among the younger generation. He thanked the heads of the SCO youth and business councils and the All-China Youth Federation for active participation and help in organising the webinar.

To read Alibaba Business School's publications on digital action for entrepreneurs in the age of COVID-19