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Digital shift part of new order

Joshua Lao

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Adoption of modern technology in various businesses boomed during the pandemic which will be the norm even after the global health crisis has come to pass.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno earlier pointed on the necessity to incorporate digital services on the people’s day-to-day transactions, including the payment for public transportation as well as other goods and services.

“Human behavior is expected to change with social distancing as the new norm. People are expected to prefer using electronic payment and financial services to face-to-face and over-the-counter transactions,” Diokno explained.

“We need to quicken the adoption of the National QR (quick response) code standard to enable interoperable payments for person-to-person and person-to-merchant transactions,” he added.

Still, the BSP chief stressed that planning for the post-pandemic life ahead is a must as the country advances from the current crisis to the so-called “New Economy.”

“The end goal is to have a New Economy, which ought to be safe, better and more technologically equipped than what we had before,” he said.

Online learning programs

Acting Socioeconomic Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua highlighted the importance of a more innovative and flexible learning programs to equip the workforce and help preserve jobs amid the health crisis.

“Workers now need to adapt to the changes in business operations brought about by the pandemic as economic activities resume. Online or blended learning programs will now play a key role in providing opportunities for Filipinos who will require retooling and upskilling,” Chua said.

For the government’s side, the Cabinet official likewise stressed the need to incorporate digital processes.

“As we transition to a new normal where physical contact remains restricted, we need to invest in digital transformation. This is an important structural reform,” he explained.

“It will be a difficult process. While the government itself invests in infrastructure, we also need to have competition policies that will encourage the private sector to help improve the country’s information technology infrastructure,” he added.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III previously noted the launch of their digital-based programs to be expected within the third quarter this year, including the electronic receipt and invoicing and electronic sales reporting system or e-invoicing.

The finance chief likewise explained that this e-invoicing program is the biggest digitalization program for the government, leaving its slow processes and operations behind.

Further, state-run Land Bank of the Philippines will soon launch an all digital, branchless bank, the first of its kind in the country and will cater primarily to overseas Filipinos.

Tech hub of Asia

Ranking 7th among the best countries to invest in, the Philippines was described as the “tech hub of Asia” given its emerging digitalization trend.

While at it, the central bank chief noted on the key role financial technology (fintech) companies will play in pump-priming the economy given their ability to provide digital solutions not only for the government, but for the micro, small and medium enterprises as well.

“Renowned for their agility, adaptability and digital fluency, fintechs are uniquely positioned to support the country’s bid to shape a new economy that is more resilient, inclusive and technology-enabled,” Diokno said.

However, the Philippines definitely lack the necessary infrastructure to take advantage of these technologies and must act quick to resolve such issue.

World Bank senior economist Rong Qian earlier pointed to the need to establish a better digital infrastructure for the Philippines, which will definitely aid its quick economic recovery.

“Digitalization is largely constrained by the country’s low high-speed broadband penetration, which lags behind neighboring countries. (Also,) the digital divide in the Philippines is large with nearly 60 percent of households not having access to internet and unable to reap the benefits of digitalization,” Qian said.

“To accelerate digital transformation, the government needs to set up a sound regulatory environment that encourage competition, guarantee accountability and protect consumers,” she added.

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