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The Asian Productivity Organization (APO) recently concluded a multicountry observational study mission for Mass Media Practitioners on Innovation and Productivity Promotion in SMEs in Tokyo. The mission held 20 to 24 February was attended by 18 journalists from 11 member countries and aimed at enhancing their knowledge and understanding of innovations and best practices in productivity enhancement for SMEs in Japan. The five-day mission also developed a framework for cooperation to strengthen links between the APO and mass media practitioners in member economies to assist them in promoting the latest productivity trends and best practices in the region.
Highlighting the three mega trends of information technology, quality, and sustainable development, APO Secretary-General Dr. Santhi Kanoktanaporn said that it was important for both public- and private-sector organizations in member countries to adapt quickly to the changing global scenario and seize opportunities that could help them become future ready. “This is important for member countries to sustain productivity growth,” he noted in the keynote address at the inaugural session of the study mission.
The Secretary-General added that in a world of constant change and uncertainty, excellence in productivity itself could not guarantee that an organization would survive and thrive. “To be resilient, organizations must take a long-term view to develop future readiness strategies, while acting to address risks and seizing opportunities to build productivity growth that can fit and be sustained in the highly uncertain, complex future. We need to focus on sustainable productivity,” he told the media group.
Dr. Santhi noted that, unlike the last 50 years when most countries in Asia grew faster than the US and Western European economies, changing demographics and the pace of change were threatening to slow economic growth in APO members: “Less fertility-driven agriculture, longer span-impacted population growth, and aging societies are the demographics slowing growth.”
Pointing out that there was a need to increase the participation of women in the workforce and opportunities for those aged over 65, the Secretary-General believed that governments and the public sector needed to rethink their roles in society and strategies to create a level playing field compared with the private sector. He stated that mechanized, digitized farming was imperative for world food security, as was the need to help people become more professional and acquire new skills to help them retain their jobs in the era of Industry 4.0 and Economy 5.0, when routine work would soon be taken over by artificial intelligence-enabled tools, devices, and robots.
In welcoming participants, APO Research and Planning Department Director Joselito C. Bernardo acknowledged that many technological developments and innovations in the manufacturing, service, and agriculture sectors had yet to reach SMEs: “While technological and process innovations are important to improve SME operations and enhance competitiveness, they are constrained by the lack of knowledge and their limited resources to access them.” He said that although SMEs were willing to change, nimble, and quick to adapt new technologies to grow and compete in the global economy, they were often too busy with daily activities and generally could not afford to hire consultants or research teams to identify which changes would be the most advantageous to improve existing processes.
“The mass media could be the missing link in efforts of governments and organizations like the APO to share knowledge and information more effectively with the multitude of SMEs,” Bernardo continued. “‘The pen is mightier than the sword’ is not simply an adage coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839. Even in today’s rapidly changing economy, and irrespective of the evolution from print to electronic to social media communications, the writings of journalists, bloggers, and citizens have the power to effect change and we are looking at the media to play a crucial role in nation building and shaping our future,” he concluded.
The APO organized similar media projects in 2013 and 2014. The two pilot projects showed that exposing mass media practitioners to information on technologies or best practices helped them disseminate information and create awareness among stakeholders. Study missions like this also provide opportunities for reporters to establish networks throughout the region. Building on those lessons, the APO is expanding links with the mass media in member countries in line with strategies in its Roadmap to Achieve Vision 2020.