GSMA THRIVE ASIA PACIFIC: Jamaludin Ibrahim, president and CEO of Axiata Group (pictured), insisted the key to accelerating the shift to digital services for small businesses is to move to cashless payments to lower the barriers to entry.

While all business sectors need support in the digitisation process, he said: “We have to give high priority to micro SMEs. And one way to do that is to make payment easier.”

He called on banks, IT companies, operators and governments to back such moves.

“We must develop a cashless society, and it cannot be done naturally. We must push to the level where everything will be cashless.”

Ibrahim said the transition to digital commerce and payments can start small, with some entrepreneurs doing e-commerce using SMS, while others are using WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram to sell. “This is a good start. Of course, eventually they will need a more ubiquitous e-commerce engine to be able to sell their products more widely and buy products from suppliers.”

He added governments must work closely with the private sector on coordinated digital initiatives. “It can’t just be one party. Everyone benefiting from digitisation, the telecoms industry, IT companies and OTT players must contribute both financially and non-financially.”