On Monday 5 July, PICTFOR hosted their fifth event of the Year, focused on Platforms for Growth: How can the tech sector further support SMEs and the wider economy during and after the pandemic, creating positive environments for growth? The event was co-sponsored by Facebook and TechUK.
It was our pleasure to hear from Shadow Business and Consumer minister, Seema Malhotra MP, Facebook’s Public Policy Manager for the UK, Kay Perry, the Head of Policy at techUK, Neil Ross, and the Director of Be the Business, Matt Bright. The event was chaired by PICTFOR’s Co-Chair, Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG.
Please see below for minutes of the session. You can catch up on the event in full, here.
- Seema Malhotra MP began the discussion by highlighting the importance of SMEs and the tech sector over the last year, and the role of technology in maintaining revenue for businesses during the pandemic. She stressed the importance of digital skills and of educating people about the implications of new technologies and on protection from cybercrime. She then went on to discuss the need for a clear and cohesive support strategy from the Government to support the burgeoning tech economy. She closed by considering the UK’s technological and AI capabilities, assessing how they can continue to support the growth of business.
- Kay Perry brought attention to Facebook’s ability to allow SMEs to compete with larger businesses through their free services and training programmes. She went on to outline how Facebook’s services have fostered better opportunities for SMEs to remain viable over the last year. She then spoke about Facebook’s response to the presence of fraud on their platform and how their report system reinsures that they remain vigilant in their intervention and removal of fraudulent accounts and posts.
- Neil Ross addressed how the pandemic accelerated trends in the sector, in particular the increased integration of technology by SMEs. He also discussed the importance of full fixed fibre coverage to ensure equal access to technology for SMEs. He concluded by discussing AI’s ability to support business and the importance of education to achieve a better level of implementation of AI by SMEs.
- Matt Bright stated that SMEs had developed the equivalent of three years in the first three months of the pandemic. As well as this, he highlighted how more than a quarter of SMEs had moved online for the first time during the ongoing lockdowns. He closed by warning that the integration of technology into SMEs is not always successful and highlighted the importance of training in the sector to prevent such failures.
The Panellists were then joined by the owner of Kings Barber Club, Adam Choudhry whose company had recently implemented AI technology to help to organise their business.
- Adam Choudhry spoke about the importance of online advertising in maintaining his SME’s effectiveness online. He drew attention to the targeted nature of online advertising, which allows small businesses to directly attract their target markets, without incurring the same cost as they would through traditional marketing. Choudhry also spoke about the opportunities that technology gives businesses to re-focus when necessary, using his example of shifting to selling hair products online when hairdressers were closed in the pandemic.