Gov’t urged to boost IT infra, skills to achieve digitalization
MANILA, Philippines — The government should encourage investments in the IT infrastructure of the Philippines and help improve the IT skills of Filipinos to boost its digitalization efforts.
Orlando Oxales, co-convenor of the consumer group CitizenWatch Philippines, stressed the point in a statement issued on Monday.
He noted that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had stressed that the Philippines would need “to be even smarter, even bolder in finding digital solutions to many problems.”
“What we need to plan carefully and execute effectively is how we can achieve real digital transformation not only in select sectors or geographic locations but across the archipelago. Collaborating with the private sector, providing more incentives, and instituting a digital skills improvement program are key steps to achieve this,” Oxales said.
“These efforts should complement ongoing telco network upgrades and expansion,” he added.
He tagged GCash as one of the primary examples of how the Philippines has gone digital“, especially for millions of ordinary and unbanked consumers.”
Citing data from analytics firm App Annie, Oxales said GCash was the most downloaded application in the first nine months of 2020, or during the height of the lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oxales noted that a 2022 report by Statista found that GCash users averaged 60 million as of March 2022, which accounts for 83% of the adult population in the country.
“There is no more argument that digital is the way to go,” he said.
He also cited the World Bank, which also pushed for digital infrastructure investments to boost economic recovery.
Further, Oxales said the government should harness the public-private partnership (PPP) framework and offer incentives that would attract more investors in digital infrastructure.
“This would, at the minimum, close the backlog of telco common towers for mobile phone signal coverage,” he said.
He then stressed the potential of the micro small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector for the Philippine domestic economy, which he said accounted for 99.5% of approximately 1 million registered establishments in the country and employs 63% of the country’s workforce.
“These MSMEs must be empowered with digital skills to help scale up their operations and reach potential markets beyond their localities,” Oxales said.
Meanwhile, despite the increase in online transactions during the pandemic, Oxales also pointed out that there remained a great disparity in people’s ability to maximize the internet’s potential in the new normal.
“We must, first and foremost, solve the systemic gaps in our digital readiness by upskilling our workforce,” he said. “Without this parallel effort, all our initiatives in upgrading and expanding digital infrastructure would be for nothing.”