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Friday, April 19, 2024

The digitalization drive: Philippines’ growth and potential

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Over the past few years, the Philippines has embarked on an exciting journey toward embracing digitalization―using it as a catalyst for economic advancement, social progress, and innovation.

With its tech-inclined youth and burgeoning startup scene, the nation is harnessing digital tools to tackle the various dilemmas that continue to plague Philippine society and unlock fresh opportunities across different sectors to improve the lives of the Filipino people.

With that said, let’s delve into the progress of digitalization in the country and explore the potential it holds to uplift the Philippines, specifically the lives of its people.

Developing Digital Infrastructure

If it wasn’t already obvious, the Philippines has been funneling a lot of resources to bettering the foundations of its digital adoption. After all, digital infrastructure is vital in satisfying the growing demand for connectivity and competitive digital services.

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There’s a huge focus on filling the gap in ‘connectedness’ across the country, specifically in remote and rural areas. This is being addressed through investments in broadband networks, mobile connectivity, and ICT infrastructure that will significantly expand access to the internet.

A great example of this is the National Broadband Plan (NBP). A project of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the NBP aims to overcome the digital divide and enhance digital inclusion in the country.

The project aims to create an interconnected web of infrastructure across the three major islands of the country, particularly fiber optic cables and wireless technologies to boost internet access, speed, and affordability.

Another program under the banner of the NBP is the Broadband ng Masa (BBM) project. It endeavors to connect Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA) to the internet by putting up free Wi-Fi infrastructures in key areas such as schools.

Launched in Davao City’s University of Southeastern Philippines (USeP)-Obrero campus back in 2023, it expanded to Palawan in February of this year with 129 new hotspots activated in 37 different locations.

E-Government Services

The government has been proactive in digitizing to improve its efficiency, transparency, and accessibility, specifically when it comes to public services.

By setting up online platforms and mobile apps, the government brings itself closer to the people through a few clicks or the touch of a screen―allowing citizens easier access to government services, tax-paying, permit applications, and participation in governance processes from the convenience of their devices.

The PhilSys national ID system and the Philippine Business Databank are examples of digital initiatives aimed at enhancing service delivery and reducing bureaucratic red tape.

Advancing Digital Payments and Financial Inclusion

The rise of digital payments and fintech solutions is revolutionizing the financial landscape in the Philippines.

Mobile banking, e-wallets, and digital payment platforms are expanding access to financial services for millions of Filipinos, particularly those in underserved communities.

Of course, the government is also playing a role through the National Retail Payment System, a flagship project by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. It’s designed to create a more secure, efficient, and dependable retail payment system in the Philippines that seamlessly works across various platforms―paving the way for greater financial inclusion and economic empowerment.

Nurturing Digital Skills

Recognizing the importance of digital skills in the digital economy, efforts are underway to enhance digital literacy and education in the Philippines.

Partnerships between government, industry, and academia are promoting STEM education, coding boot camps, and digital skills training programs to equip the workforce with the competencies needed for the digital age.

Some of the programs that the government has put in place through the DICT include Tech4Ed, the Digital Education Program, the Digital Transformation Centers, and the ICT Academy.

Upskilling will be vital in building a future-ready workforce capable of harnessing digital technologies for innovation and growth.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

The Philippines is witnessing a burgeoning startup ecosystem encouraged by the innovations afforded by digitalization.

That’s why the government is offering support through programs like the Philippine Roadmap For Digital Startups and the Innovative Startup Act ―both of which create an environment for startups to thrive and contribute to economic development.

By doing this, the country will be able to bolster the economic growth of the local business scene and, at the same time, address the issue of growing unemployment in the country.

Challenges and Opportunities

While we’ve come a long way, there’s still work to be done to fully embrace the potential of digitalization in the Philippines. Challenges like bridging the digital divide, tackling cybersecurity risks, navigating regulatory hurdles, and filling infrastructure gaps need our attention to ensure that everyone benefits from the digital revolution.

It’s clear that digitalization is making its mark in the Philippines. Initiatives are already in motion to harness digital technologies for economic and social progress. By fostering an environment of innovation, collaboration, and digital access for all, the Philippines is on track to lead the way in the digital era, driving forward progress and prosperity the nation.

Yet, we’re not without strengths. With our vibrant tech scene, talented workforce, and entrepreneurial spirit, the Philippines is well-positioned to seize the opportunities that digitalization offers. By tapping into these strengths, we can foster inclusive growth, boost our competitiveness, and enhance the well-being of all Filipinos.

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