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Facebook COO says digitalisation, empowered women are key to economic recovery




KUALA LUMPUR 19 Nov. As economies around the world continue to face the impact of COVID-19, technology and connectivity are crucial to help people stay connected.


It enables health authorities to deliver important public health information at scale, and drive inclusive economic recovery of business and trade, said Facebook chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg.


Sandberg noted the pivotal role of digitalization in building the resilience of small medium businesses (SMBs) which are the backbone of APEC economies, accounting for about 40% to 60% of their gross domestic products (GDPs).


A joint study conducted by Facebook, World Bank and the OECD shows that globally, 15% of SMBs have closed operations and those who have reopened and survived are facing financial pressures and reduced demand.


Women-owned SMBs were more likely to report that they were closed, even when taking into consideration factors such as size of business, sector, and geography.


Given APEC’s focus on putting women at the centre of economic recovery in the region, the study shows that women are disproportionately bearing the burden of domestic responsibilities.


“The pandemic has proved the value of connection, cooperation across borders, and the economic opportunity created by an open, accessible internet.


“We should give everyone the opportunity to be part of this digital future. We will continue to invest in digital literacy programs, online education, and improve connectivity for people in remote communities so that we can together build a thriving digital economy that will power Asia Pacific for years to come,” Sandberg said.


She was speaking at the first virtual APEC Leaders Meeting (AELM) on post COVID-19 priorities for the region, attended by the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, as well as other dignitaries and leaders from around the region.


She added, on average over the study period, 23% of all female business leaders stated that they spent six hours or more per day on domestic responsibilities, compared to only 11 % of males.


Yet, the study also found that female business leaders demonstrate flexibility in their business models in response to COVID-19 and were more likely to make more than 50% of their sales through digital channels.


This figure is significant given the study shows that more than 40% of SMBs in the majority of the regions made more than a quarter of their sales through digital channels.


In another recent study on digital tools, Facebook and Deloitte shared that 77% of the SMBs studied globally indicated they started using or increased their usage of digital tools at some point in the customer lifecycle, with social media and online messaging experiencing the most growth during the COVID-19 crisis.


In Malaysia, for example, 56% of operational SMBs reported 25% or more of their sales were made digitally in the past month.


The analysis demonstrates that, of those now-open SMBs that closed at some point during the pandemic, an increase in digital tool usage was associated with shorter closure periods.


Furthermore, those that increased their digital tool usage were nearly four times more likely than other SMBs to be targeting new customers with their marketing efforts, potentially tapping into new markets and new sources of revenue. –


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