INTRODUCTION TO SPECIAL ISSUE: THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WESTERN CAPE DIGITAL INCLUSION AND WOMEN ENTREPRENEURSHIP SERIES 2021

  • Michelle Esau University of the Western Cape
Keywords: COVID-19 Pandemic, UWC, Academic activities, SME recovery, Digital inclusion, Online interaction

Abstract

This special issue on Digital inclusion and women entrepreneurship features a selection of papers and review articles on themes and issues raised in the University of the Western Cape (UWC) webinar series on the topic held in the 2021 academic year.

To help limit the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, UWC’s academic activities in 2020 and 2021 migrated to online platforms. The university was one of the pioneers of remote learning to ensure that the academic project is saved. As learning and teaching was taking place via online learning platforms, research and collaboration were mediated through webinars. Webinars allowed researchers to continue the practice of gathering and sharing their findings with their peers and the community at large. In the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences (EMS), we took a conscious decision to focus our webinars on the broad theme of Towards SME recovery from theCovid-19 pandemic. This theme particularly provided the faculty with the opportunity to facilitate engagements, discourse, and debates among women entrepreneurs, researchers of female owned SMMEs, entrepreneurship students, and policymakers. The webinars were well-received and invited much discussion. It was, therefore, imperative for the faculty to ensure that the discussion on female owned SMEs continues. For that reason, the faculty resolved that the faculty’s developmental journal – Journal of Entrepreneurial Innovations (JEI) – publish a special issue on the webinar series to ensure that collaboration and engagement on the topic not only continues but was also (re)introduced as an important agenda item in the mainstream literature. This was a bold step by the faculty, as the mainstream literature tends to shy away from research topics involving SMEs and women owned businesses. Despite the evidence supporting that SMEs are responsible for employment creation and poverty alleviation (United Nations, 2020), SMEs are almost always considered to be “too small to make any impact.” At EMS, we are committed to improving the welfare of SMEs both in research and practice. The JEI, in general, and this special issue, in particular, as well as other activities including the Small Business Clinic, illustrates that the EMS Faculty is committed to stimulating the craft of entrepreneurship. This special issue reflects on the application of digital and computerised technologies and how these could be utilised to leverage  entrepreneurship.