Embiggen’s Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director of Corporate Foresight Professor Jose Decolongon spoke at Huawei Asia Pacific’s panel conversation on challenges and opportunities in the digital economy.
Prof. Decolongon shared his insights alongside regional public, industrial, and academic experts in the event titled “Accelerate Digital Economy for Inclusive Integration in Asia Pacific” on July 29, 2021.
“There [are] opportunities offered by this wave of digitalization [and] digital transformation, and we have barely skimmed the potential,” said Prof. Decolongon. Citing a study by the Department of Trade and Industry, Prof. Decolongon said that the e-commerce industry can contribute up to $24 billion to the economy by 2022.
Prof. Decolongon observed that there has been a rise of regional startups based in the Philippines and venture funding by global venture capitalists. “The Philippine startup ecosystem is becoming robust and a real regional player in the FinTech and e-commerce verticals,” said Prof. Decolongon.
Digital challenges in ASEAN
However, there are challenges facing the wave of digital transformation and the digital economy.
Dr. Le Quang Lan, assistant director and head of ICT and Tourism division in the ASEAN Secretariat said that digital transformation faces a lot of challenges in ASEAN like digital divides and cybersecurity.
Another challenge is the lack of people-centered, inclusive and sustainable development and integration, according to the Director of the Institute for Brand Strategy and Competition Dr. Vo Tri Thanh.
Chairman of the Singapore National Committee for Pacific Economic Cooperation Dr. Tan Khee Giap shared that while the need for digital transformation has increased, getting the capacity and the resources to undergo the transformation is still a challenge in the region.
In the Philippines, Prof. Decolongon mentioned that only 29% of people in the Philippines have access to a bank account which makes online transactions difficult. Prof. Decolongon also mentioned that some processes when setting up a business are still done in person instead of online, even during the pandemic.
“These challenges are being faced by these micro, small and medium enterprises but also the large organizations,” said Prof. Decolongon.
The event panelists offered some suggestions to address the challenges to digitalization that were brought up in the event.
Prof. Decolongon said that telecommunication companies like Huawei can help address the lacking coverage and slow speeds of digital infrastructure in some economies.
Dr. Tan said that there is a need to ensure that digital capabilities are considered a public good.
“Companies like Huawei… have the technology to ensure not just digitalization, but the quality of digitalization, not just in the urban area but also in the agricultural sector. I think this is very important to ensure that integration is inclusive,” added Dr. Tan.
Additionally, Dr. Alvin Ang, a professor at the Ateneo de Manila University said that there should also be a focus on introducing a mechanism that will protect skills and lower income groups as digitalization takes place.
Accelerating digital adoption in the Philippines
Over the past year in the pandemic, businesses had no choice but to adopt digital technology and hasten their digital transformation to continue operating despite the pandemic restrictions.
“It was like 10 years of change compressed into one year,” said Prof. Decolongon.
According to Prof. Decolongon, companies will keep some of the changes they have taken due to the pandemic. “Organizations are really looking at… the work that can be done anywhere… and those that will still have to be done physically or in person,” said Prof. Decolongon.
This trend demonstrates that there is a move toward digital transformation that will be sustained even after the pandemic ends. The public and private sector will have to work together to ensure that digital transformation is truly inclusive by expanding access, developing digital skills, and improving cybersecurity.
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