Faced with a global pandemic, countries have been using UNCTAD’s online digital government platform, known as eRegistrations, to continue providing essential services to SMEs while their offices have been closed.
- Benin: Number of companies created online tripled during Covid.
- El Salvador: 56 percent of entrepreneurs accessing Covid support online are women.
- Rwanda: Platform published information to make it easier to import medical equipment.
These services have enabled entrepreneurs to obtain the licenses they need to continue conducting business and paying taxes, assisted SMEs to access Covid-19 rescue packages thereby protecting jobs and livelihoods, and enabled those who have lost their jobs to access social security or set up their own business.
Created by UNCTAD’s Division on Investment and Enterprise, eRegistrations allows local and national governments to simplify their administrative procedures and make them accessible through online single windows, thereby avoiding physical visits to administration offices.
Digitalization of administration has other advantages too. By integrating card and mobile payments as well as chatbots and voice communications, users no longer have to travel sometimes long distances from rural areas to queue at crowded offices, processes can be sped up to prevent disruption to business, and procedures can be simplified so as to be understood by those not familiar with government bureaucracy, thereby eliminating expensive intermediaries.
Increasing the number of SMEs formalizing their operations also generates greater fiscal revenues and social security contributions, thereby helping governments and communities to be more resilient during the crisis.
UNCTAD staff worked remotely with governments during the crisis to develop new online services using the platform. Simple online services were created within two days, with more complex services (involving multiple governments offices) up and running within a week.
Vulnerable populations in particular have benefited from the online single windows created by eRegistrations in their country, even while the pandemic has disrupted their livelihoods:
In Benin, 48 percent of those setting up a business on eRegistrations, marketed in the country as monentreprise.bj, are 30 or under, one third are women and over 50 percent are based outside the capital. Use of the platform has more than tripled as Covid has taken hold. The process now takes only five hours to complete.
In El Salvador, 56 percent of entrepreneurs using the Cuenta MYPE platform to access a $600 million Covid rescue package were female, and numbers increased two and a half times between June and July this year.
In Rwanda, the rwandatrade.rw trade portal was reconfigured to help traders who need the necessary licenses to import pharmaceutical and medical equipment into the landlocked country.
In Iraq, where entrepreneurs need to limit visits to administrative offices because of the twin challenges of the pandemic and violence, government officials worked to put in place the newly-launched business.mot.gov.iq online business registry. The authorities are specifically targeting its use at those affected by the current crisis.
In Guatemala, online company registrations through registromercantil.gob.gt increased more than two and a half times as Covid took hold. Economy Minister, Antonio Malouf told the media that “reducing paperwork in government agencies is one of the actions we are taking as part of the Covid economic recovery strategy.”