Private sector development, trade and financial Inclusion
NIRAS uses digitalisation to accelerate private sector development, trade and inclusive economic growth.
What digitalisation can achieve
Digital technologies and digital connectivity are a key driver of private-sector economic growth in low and middle income countries. Digitally-enabled trade such as e-commerce platforms and enhanced customs processes create new and stronger links between businesses and consumers. Digital financial services are having a profound impact on financial inclusion for micro and small enterprises, providing opportunities for investment and growth. In addition, digital technologies can significantly reduce the regulatory burden for micro and small enterprises, improving business efficiency and building the formalisation of the private sector.
Services we offer
- Digitally-enabled trade for inclusive private sector development, technical assistance to both governments (customs processes) and businesses (e-commerce)
- Digital financial services, design and uptake strategies for optimising impact and inclusion (mobile banking, digital banking, loan products)
- Digital economy regulation, technical assistance to governments and policy-makers
- Digital innovation systems that support enabled entrepreneurship, especially through incubation, acceleration and investment in digital technology, start-ups and innovation
- Digital-first business models, tailored support to private sector businesses enhancing the efficient delivery and accessibility of their services and products
- Supporting DFIs and donor investors in the investment in digitalisation infrastructure and businesses, ecosystem mapping. Assisting in leveraging private sector investing.
- Digitalisation of government processes to support private sector development and formalisation of MSMEs (e.g. SME registration, export processes, tax collection)
- Digital market ecosystem assessments of national actors, policies and practices in order to inform future programme interventions in developing countries.
Examples from our work
Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme (SAIS2)
The Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme (SAIS2) recognised the importance of digitalisation in supporting entrepreneurship in the region and implemented a range of initiatives to help start-ups leverage digital technologies to grow and succeed. The Virtual Incubation Programme provided start-ups with access to online mentoring, coaching, and networking opportunities, allowing entrepreneurs to connect with mentors and experts from around the world, access relevant information and resources, and receive feedback on their ideas. The platform also connected start-ups with potential investors, partners, and customers and provided visibility and exposure to a global audience. SAIS2 also launched a digital Innovation Challenge Fund that identified and supported innovative digital solutions addressing social and economic challenges in Southern Africa. The Fund provided digital skills training to help entrepreneurs leverage digital technologies to grow and scale their businesses. The training covered topics such as digital marketing, e-commerce, and social media, and was designed to help startups build their online presence and reach new customers.
Commercial Agriculture For Smallholders and Agribusiness (CASA) Programme in Nepal
Nepal’s 2020 COVID lockdowns had a major impact on the agriculture sector, especially smallholder farmers and SMEs. Responding to the crisis, the Commercial Agriculture For Smallholders and Agribusiness (CASA) Programme in Nepal selected eight businesses and one cooperative to work with to operationalise e-commerce platforms, offering the enterprises an integrated package including software, training and operational support to get them trading online. The digitisation programme allowed the nine enterprises to continue operating their businesses online, strengthening their resilience to shocks as well as securing the income of the thousands of smallholder farmers on whom they depend.
MasterCard Foundation ‘Savings at the Frontier’ (SatF) programme
The MasterCard Foundation ‘Savings at the Frontier’ (SatF) programme bridges the gap between formal financial services supply and informal savings mechanisms. SatF facilitates development of effective, scalable business models among financial service providers (FSPs) to serve consumers in frontier markets in Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia. NIRAS provided two services within SatF: First, to conduct a demand-side study in Tanzania on financial services preferences and usage by savings group members to inform FSPs in their product development. Second, to assist creation of a Spatial Decision Support System to help track and guide financial inclusion. Combining satellite observations with classification algorithms, remote sensing as a proximity tool for financial inclusion was developed to answer questions including: How far is the nearest bank? How many people can my mobile money agents reach? – key questions for FSPs developing business cases for new territory expansion, and decisions to shift access points.
Education, skills and employment
Through our education, skills and employment digital work we support governments through, e.g., national employment agencies, private companies, civil society organisations, workers, technical vocational and education training (TVET) schools and their trainers to prosper in Industry 4.0.
What digitalisation can achieve
Digital technologies are creating seismic changes across industries and the world of work, transforming established sectors and creating new digital economies that did not exist before. In the next decade, 90% of all jobs will require digital skills. Education, skills and employment play a pivotal role in helping workers update their skills to meet the changes in market demand. Digital technologies also offer important opportunities for enhancing the quality and reach of, for example. technical and vocational educational training (TVET) through e-learning platforms and using online data to understand market demands. In particular teachers for primary, secondary and tertiary education and leaders need to carefully develop tailored solutions that suit the needs of trainees and address the challenges of the digital divide.
Services we offer
- Supporting school providers to develop inclusive curriculums suited to the new digital economy and understanding current private sector demand;
- Supporting teachers and trainers to enhance their digital competencies and pedagogical approaches using digital technologies;
- Development of labour market information systems using cutting-edge technologies;
- National education and training reform processes and reforming TVET systems to align with national digital skills needs;
- Working with private sector companies to articulate their companies’ digital skills labour needs, recruitment strategies and in-company digital-skills training for trainees and employees;
- Establishing business technology innovation centres and incubators;
- Tech-enabled marketing strategies for TVET and education; and
- Establishing modern online-based competence assessment tools for better matching of trainees/students into jobs and supporting digital solutions for career guidance and counselling services.
Examples from our work
From Education to Employment
The Swiss (SDC) financed “From Education to Employment” E2E programme aims at combating the structural youth unemployment by developing youth skills and competences that are required on the job market in Serbia. E2E develops skills through promotion of non-formal, modern trainings with cooperative training elements. E2E has established several tailor-made digital tools and solutions, such as an innovative web-based monitoring software WebMo, set up to report on the implementing partners’ progress. The E2E has also developed and introduced a plethora of innovative learning and career guidance tools for young jobseekers, via digital competence assessment tests, career choice quizzes and surveys, deployed with tablets by career guidance practitioners across Serbia. A VR training simulator for welding is currently in development, with more VR learning tools planned in the near future. The programme has been very successful in using local ‘influencers’ to highlight the benefits of the programme and get more young people into work-based learning programmes. Much of this ‘influence’ has been conducted via social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Tik Tok considering the age bracket of a key stakeholder (i.e., young school leavers) but video and radio has also been used with great success.
Sida’s intranet-based toolbox for application of a Human Rights-Based Approach
As a part of our work with Sida framework agreement on Democracy and Human rights, NIRAS has recently updated Sida’s intranet-based toolbox for application of a Human Rights-Based Approach. We have also developed new practical HRBA training materials, including an e-learning module for basic training in/introduction to HRBA and a more advanced in-depth HRBA training module that can be adjusted to tailormade training in e.g. certain contexts. The assignment also resulted in a corresponding update of the external toolbox, available for the public, as well as relevant contributions to the new partners’ portal, on Sida's website Sida.se. The revision and up-date has improved user-friendliness and provided a better oversight of the toolbox content. The toolbox is pedagogical and explained in an easy to understand way, how to use the different sections, including the thematic / methodological briefs and other tools, and an introduction to useful links. The content of the toolbox is logically presented and easy to navigate, through a site map available on the first page of the toolbox.
EdTech Solutions for Last Mile Schools during COVID-19
Funded by the Asian Development Bank, this project used digitalisation to support education in remote and underserved areas during the COVID-19 pandemic to bridge the digital divide and ensure that no child is left behind. The project developed and implemented digital learning platforms that provide remote access to educational resources, including videos, lesson plans, and assessments. While these platforms enabled students to continue learning from home during school closures, they will continue help bridge the digital divide by providing access to educational resources in remote areas. The project also developed mobile applications that provide students and teachers with access to digital learning resources on their smartphones or tablets. These apps are designed to be user-friendly and accessible, even in low-bandwidth areas with limited connectivity. Teachers are trained on how to use digital tools and platforms to deliver effective and engaging online learning experiences. The project also engaged with parents and caregivers, providing them with information and resources on how to support their children's digital learning at home.