The Pandemic Continues to Bring Digital Focus and Resources to NYC’s Small Businesses

Amidst much discussion on the accelerated pace with which large corporations are adopting an increasingly digital focus, fortunately, a number of initiatives have also sought to assist small businesses cope with the pandemic by easing the shift to e-commerce, providing tools for cybersecurity and seeking to make assistance with technology part of an overall package of support.    


Launched in October, New York State’s Empire State Digital initiative, which seeks to accelerate the ability of NYS-based small businesses to grow their digital presence, began a second phase in December, providing new e-commerce opportunities for pandemic affected restaurants and other food establishments. 

Having initial goals to provide, “specialized solutions such as education, free resources, marketing support and discounted pricing,” NYS’s Empire State Development said in a statement that in the program’s second phase, e-commerce company Ritual is offering its “commission-free digital ordering platform Ritual ONE to New York’s restaurants and food service businesses at no cost, for pickup and delivery,” from December 11, 2020 through April 2021. Additionally, it said that “PayPal has committed $1 million towards discounted purchases for customers of participating businesses on Ritual ONE in February 2021, at no expense to the businesses.”


Through its Department of Financial Services (DFS), the state is also seeking to protect small businesses once they have established an online presence by providing a free Cybersecurity toolkit made possible by partnering with Global Cyber Alliance, a non-profit organization with whom it has also worked with to develop a set of cybersecurity policies that utilize best practices in that field. 

In a statement, DFS cited the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigation report highlighting that over 43% of cyberattacks are targeted at small businesses and that such attacks are, “especially challenging for businesses that are too small to have a dedicated Chief Information Security Officer and cybersecurity staff.”

The areas covered in the toolkit include:

  • Identifying hardware and software
  • Updating defenses against cyber threats
  • Strengthening passwords and multi-factor authentication
  • Backing up and recovering data, and;
  • Protecting email systems


Finally, the NYC Small Business Network, launched in September as a public-private partnership between such entities as the NYC Economic Development Corporation, the Chambers of Commerce in each borough and the Partnership for New York City (Partnership) to assist small businesses hit hard by the pandemic has reached over 900 businesses through their Small Business Support Specialists.

Notably, according to testimony by Kathryn Wylde, President of the Partnership, small businesses requested assistance in more traditional areas such as access to capital, help with marketing, and business strategy along with pandemic specific-items, but less so when it came to digital assistance. However, according to her prepared statement, Ms. Wylde voiced her anticipation that as the pandemic persisted, businesses would need “additional assistance with technology and moving more activities online so that they can continue to operate and generate revenue,” indicating that she saw a digital focus as being critical.

Categories: Digital Divide, Digital economy, Digital Finance, E-Commerce, Startup Ecosystem

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