"Without a robust broadband backbone our country will suffer a fundamental disadvantage and will be uncompetitive in the emerging digital economy."
There was a very insightful international webinar last week where top technology leaders of some of the biggest digital technology-driven brands shared their latest innovations that consumers have found indispensable during these pandemic times.
The online event was organized by the Philippine-American Academy of Science & Engineering (PAASE), a non-profit organization composed of scientists and engineers of Philippine descent who have distinguished themselves in scholarly and research related activities in partnership with think tank Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi) and speakers from Netflix, Amazon, Google, Grab, and GCash.
According to Stratbase ADRi Trustee and Program Convenor Dr. Carlos Primo (CP) David, “Filipino consumers have quickly shifted to digital technologies such as e-payments and e-shopping platforms and spawned a new way of living to adjust to the non-contact restrictions, safety protocols and lockdowns.”
Dr. David said that new technologies are critical enablers for enhancing relationships, makes daily transactions easier and safer, and levels the playing field for small and big players in the new-normal ecosystem.
A life-saving technology that changed our shopping culture virtually overnight are the cashless payment systems and the online buy and sell platforms. I for one hardly go to an ATM for cash. Almost every purchase I have made since the lockdowns have been through my smartphone.
Stanford University alumna and currently Head of Enterprise Architecture and Innovation of GCash, Ms. Karen Yang Chiang, said that Filipinos can now conduct seamless financial transactions in real time with the integration of banks and Instapay. Their 33,000 outlets and machines are integrated with Lazada, Apple, Google, social media sellers, and over 400 billers that consumers can conveniently pay.
Chiang said, “For the non-contact revolution, services like online web pay, pay bills, and buy load, and to serve the emerging virtual communities, we have the send money and convenient bank transfer, and for navigating through financial volatility we offer a number of financial services such as savings, investment, insurance, and loans.”
GCash also served as a platform for relief efforts and ran campaigns like #UlyssesPHAid and #TulongCagayan collecting over 21 million in donations. Celebrities and NGO partners, Red Cross and Kaya Natin boosted their own donation drives using GCash to collect cash aid.
Grab Philippines, Country Head Miss Grace Vera-Cruz told the story of how disrupting their own business model grew their company from taxi’s to private Grab car services. They launched Grab protect to operationalize a robust set of safety and hygiene standards for public transportation and food delivery. Grab food launched long distance delivery that aside from satisfying food cravings from their favorite restaurant, enabled smaller businesses to reach more and more customers that may have been too far.
Amazon Senior Software Engineer, Paul Echevarria’s talk was surprisingly not about their online forte, but on bringing back the good things about physical stores. The Amazon Go technology is envisioned to give the same frictionless shopping online by automatically figuring out the items that a shopper bought by just walking out of the store using machine learning and AI technologies. Another amazing innovation is Amazon One which is a fast, convenient, and contactless way for people to pay using their palm.
Netflix Director of Encoding Technologies Anne Aaron is the lead of a team of software engineers and research scientists responsible for all the software and research that generates the media that’s giving hours of time killing diversion to more than 200 million subscribers.
She gave a high-level discussion of Netflix’s streaming technology and complex server networks deployed worldwide to optimize varying bandwidth services and deliver the best content at the highest resolution and sound quality to each subscriber.
Stratbase ADR Institute President Prof. Dindo Manhit said, “It is not a hard sell to realize that digitization will be a requisite to an acceptable pace of recovery, and that the foundation to building this capacity is with digital infrastructure.
COVID-19 has pushed the world beyond the fear barriers of change that before the pandemic resisted our advance towards digital transformation.
Digital technologies have become an indispensable extension of our physical and mental being. The warnings of inherent risks may be valid but very manageable, and experiencing the advantages, accessibility, and great utility of digitalization, is the big lesson of this crisis that will continue to shape the new normal.
This brings us to a critical flaw in the government’s apparent de-prioritization of the National Broadband Plan. If the government does not invest in at least building a digital infrastructure that’s up to global standards, the already aggressive expansion and service upgrades of the two dominant telcos Globe Telecom and Smart will be outpaced by increasing bandwidth traffic. Without a robust broadband backbone our country will suffer a fundamental disadvantage and will be uncompetitive in the emerging digital economy.