Sustainability— Digital Technologies and the Internationalization of SMEs

Starts:  Sep 1, 2021 09:00 (ET)
Ends:  Sep 30, 2021 23:59 (ET)
Associated with  Entrepreneurship (ENT)
Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 September 2021

Digital technologies can be broadly defined as electronic tools, systems, devices and resources that generate, store, or process data. They manifest in the form of three distinct, but related, elements—digital artifacts, digital platforms, and digital infrastructures (Nambisan, 2017). Digital artifacts are digital components, applications, or media content that are part of a new product (or service) and offer functionality or value to the end user. Digital platforms are shared, common sets of services and architecture that serve to host complementary offerings, including digital artifacts. Digital infrastructures, in turn, are defined as digital technology tools and systems that offer communication, collaboration, and/or computing capabilities to support innovation and entrepreneurship (Nambisan, 2017: 1031-1032). Previous research reveals links between digitalisation, internationalization and sustainability in the context of SMEs (Isensee et al., 2020; Ayuso and Navarrete‐Báez, 2018).

While the development of digital artifacts allows entrepreneurs to provide value-adding complements to new and existing products and services in a relatively cost-efficient manner,  digital platforms and digital infrastructures can substantially reduce transaction and coordination costs, making it easier for SMEs to connect with different stakeholders across borders (Alarcón-del-Amo, Rialp, and Rialp 2018; Fieseler and Fleck 2013; Fischer and Reuber 2011, 2014). Collectively, all three types of digital technologies lower barriers to market entry and allow a greater number of and a diverse set of entrepreneurs to engage in international activities (Nambisan 2017). The efficiencies afforded by digital technologies are especially significant for SMEs, which are often resource constrained. Such democratization effects of digital technologies have been found, e.g., for women entrepreneurs (Pergelova et al. 2019), as they provide entrepreneurs with access to international market knowledge and partners while at the same time conserving resources (Rosenbaum 2017). Digital technologies have also been suggested as important tools for social entrepreneurs looking for sustainable solutions to global problems while reaching customers and suppliers across borders (George et al. 2020).

The increasing adoption and deployment of internet-based technologies can serve as the backbone of internationalization for SMEs (Etemad, Wilkinson, and Dana 2010). A growing body of research has started to examine the viability of digital technologies as an internationalization path for SMEs (e.g., Bianchi, Glavas and Mathews 2017; Bianchi and Mathews 2016; Hagsten and Kotnik 2017; Sinkovics, Sinkovics, and Jean 2013). Such research suggests that digital technologies can have powerful enabling effects for SME internationalization. However, the specific mechanisms through which digital technologies enable SME internationalization across different industry, competitive, and institutional contexts are still relatively unexplored.

With this backdrop, this Special Issue will focus on how digital technologies affect the internationalization of SMEs. We are open to both conceptual and empirical papers using diverse methodologies, and welcome submissions from various disciplines (e.g., management, entrepreneurship, innovation, international business, information systems, etc.).

Possible topics include, but are not limited to,
  • How (via what mechanisms) digital technologies impact the internationalization of SMEs;
  • How specific groups of entrepreneurs (e.g., social entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs, etc.) leverage digital technologies in their international expansion;
  • Digital technology access (or lack thereof) across different countries and the impact on international venturing;
  • Use of digital technology by SMEs in emerging markets;
  • Digital technologies and efficiencies of exchange across borders;
  • Digitization and sustainable business practices in cross-border trade and investment;
  • Digital divides and internationalization.
Papers submitted for this Special Issue will be subject to a rigorous peer-review process with the aim of rapid and wide dissemination of research results.

Alarcón-del-Amo, M.C., Rialp, A., and J. Rialp (2018). “Examining the Impact of Managerial Involvement with Social Media on Exporting Firm Performance,” International Business Review, 27 (2), 355-366.
Ayuso, S., & Navarrete‐Báez, F. E. (2018). How does entrepreneurial and international orientation influence SMEs' commitment to sustainable development? Empirical evidence from Spain and Mexico. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 25(1), 80-94.
Bianchi, C., C. Glavas, and S. Mathews (2017). “SME International Performance in Latin America: The role of Entrepreneurial and Technological Capabilities,” Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 24 (1), 176–195.
Bianchi, C., and S. Mathews (2016). “Internet Marketing and Export Market Growth in Chile,” Journal of Business Research, 69(2), 426–434.
Etemad, H., I. Wilkinson, and L. P. Dana. (2010). “Internetization as the Necessary Condition for Internationalization in the Newly Emerging Economy,” Journal of International Entrepreneurship, 8, 319–342.
Isensee, C., Teuteberg, F., Griese, K. M., & Topi, C. (2020). The relationship between organizational culture, sustainability, and digitalization in SMEs: A systematic review. Journal of Cleaner Production, 122944.
Fieseler, C., and M. Fleck (2013). “The Pursuit of Empowerment through Social Media: Structural Social Capital Dynamics in CSR-blogging,” Journal of Business Ethics, 118(4), 759–775.
Fischer, E., and A. R. Reuber (2011). “Social Interaction via New Social Media: (How) Can Interactions on Twitter Affect Effectual Thinking and Behavior?, ” Journal of Business Venturing 26(1), 1–18.
Fischer E., and A. R. Reuber (2014). “Online Entrepreneurial Communication: Mitigating Uncertainty and Increasing Differentiation via Twitter,” Journal of Business Venturing 29(4), 565–583.
George, G., Merrill, R., and S. Schillebeeckx (2020). “Digital Sustainability and Entrepreneurship: How Digital Innovations Are Helping Tackle Climate Change and Sustainable Development,” Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, DOI: 10.1177/1042258719899425.
Hagsten, E., and P. Kotnik (2017). “ICT as Facilitator of Internationalisation in Small and Medium-sized Firms,” Small Business Economics, 48, 431–446.
Nambisan, S. (2017). “Digital entrepreneurship: Toward a digital technology perspective of entrepreneurship,” Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 41(6), 1029–1055.
Pergelova, A., Manolova, T., Simeonova‐Ganeva, R., and D. Yordanova (2019). “Democratizing Entrepreneurship? Digital Technologies and the Internationalization of Female‐Led SMEs,” Journal of Small Business Management, 57 (1), 14–39.
Rosenbaum, G.O. (2017). “Female Entrepreneurial Networks and Foreign Market Entry,” Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development 24(1), 119–135.
Sinkovics, N., R. Sinkovics, and R.J. Jean (2013). “The Internet as an Alternative Path to Internationalization?,” International Marketing Review 30(2), 130–155.

Guest Editors
Tatiana S. Manolova
Leo-Paul Dana
Albena Pergelova
Desislava Yordanova