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IFC, Partners Look to New Media to Better Help Small Businesses Globally

Colombo, Sri Lanka, May 30, 2011— IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and global partners are exploring the use of new media to promote better business practices through the SME Toolkit, an online resource that provides training and management tools that help small and medium enterprises strengthen productivity and increase access to new markets.
Starting today, IFC and Sri Lankan partner Dialog Axiata PLC are hosting the SME Toolkit Global Partners Conference in Colombo, which runs from May 30 to June3, 2011.  The conference focuses on how to better reach entrepreneurs through mobile and social media.  Participants will share experiences, lessons learned, and discuss ideas for future program development and training.
Conference co-host Dialog has partnered with IFC since 2008 to bring the SME Toolkit to Sri Lanka and make it available in the local languages - Sinhala and Tamil. Since its launch in the country, the toolkit has trained over 5100 entrepreneurs on a range of business management practices.
“Dialog Axiata’s partnership with IFC’s SME Toolkit in Sri Lanka shows that innovative use of mobile and other new platforms will help us enhance capacity to reach more small and medium enterprises,” said Hans Wijayasuriya, Group Chief Executive of Dialog Axiata PLC. “We look forward to working with IFC to help extend the value of the SME Toolkit program.”
“The use of innovative models to support local entrepreneurs and helping their businesses become sustainable is a major focus of IFC's work,” said Anil Sinha, General Manager for IFC Advisory Services in for South Asia. “Our collaboration with Dialog Axiata has been instrumental in expanding the SME Toolkit across Sri Lanka using their delivery channels.”
IFC’s SME Toolkit was launched in 2002. Globally, IBM has supported the product since 2006.        
Robin Willner, IBM Vice President of Global Community Initiatives, said, “IFC and IBM continue to work together to strengthen and expand the SME Toolkit’s capabilities. IBM has invested extensive resources to develop an innovative and open-source platform so that entrepreneurs around the world have the information and supports they need to grow the local economy."          
The toolkit is available in 18 languages in 32 countries and allows Small and Medium Enterprises to list their businesses, create web pages, and participate in multilingual community forums. In many places it is the largest online business support resource in the local language.
About Dialog Axiata PLC
Dialog Axiata PLC, an ISO 9001 certified company, is a subsidiary of Axiata Group Berhad. The company operates \ mobile communications networks that support the latest in multimedia and mobile-Internet services.  Dialog was the first 3G operator in South Asia to start commercial operations, and its subscriber base is more than of 7 million Sri Lankans.  For more information, visit www.dialog.lk .
About IFC
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in developing countries. We create opportunity for people to escape poverty and improve their lives. We do so by providing financing to help businesses employ more people and supply essential services, by mobilizing capital from others, and by delivering advisory services to ensure sustainable development. In a time of global economic uncertainty, our new investments climbed to a record $18 billion in fiscal 2010. For more information, visit www.ifc.org .
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