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Innovation amid the pandemic

Necessity, as the old proverb says, is the mother of invention. This is true during this health crisis, which has taught us to become more creative and innovative to survive. Our workers learned to work from home and businesses adapted to the new normal. We are finding ways to evolve.

We changed our ways and avoided social contacts as much as possible. The adaptation, though, affected businesses that often require interaction. Fortunately in this generation, digital technology has helped us connect and transact business without being on the same location. Imagine if the pandemic struck us and we had no digital technology to rely on. The ramifications on health and the economy could have been far more serious.

Digitalization and innovation enable companies to sustain their operations despite closed borders and quarantine restrictions. New businesses have emerged, especially those involved in electronic commerce, online delivery and logistics. Bank transactions could now be conducted conveniently by using mobile apps. Online learning and virtual medical consultation became possible. In the real-estate sector, 3D virtual tours allow homebuyers to choose properties with immersive experience.

Innovation also enabled our companies under the Villar Group to grow despite the pandemic. We have made a concerted effort to expand our digital footprint. I believe that given the change in consumer behavior, the digital trend will continue beyond the health crisis.

I agree with  Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who asked local businesses to invest heavily in digitalization and innovation to stay competitive as the world transitions into a post-pandemic global economy.

The Philippines should indeed take advantage of the fast-changing technological innovations to respond and adapt to the demands and challenges of the new economy. In the words of Secretary Dominguez, technological innovations will build new industries and create many employment and investment opportunities. These will then allow us to recover faster from the pandemic and help ensure the long-term growth of the economy.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno shared the same sentiment. While large companies have the means to tap the potential of new technologies such as Cloud solutions, data science, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things, our micro, small- and medium-enterprises should not be left behind.

We should include everyone in the new economy. We should provide entrepreneurs access to digital payments solutions so they can take advantage of the explosive growth of e-commerce. It is only by empowering our MSMEs that economic recovery can take hold.

It is important for MSMEs to participate in new businesses, especially now that there are major signs the economy is beginning to mend, as shown by rising power demand, increased transportation, improving production and trade, as well as the resumption of construction activities.

The positive economic figures are emerging after the gradual reopening of the economy, easing of quarantine restrictions and the faster pace of vaccination in May and June. Thousands of economic frontliners have already received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and it is my hope that majority of them will be fully inoculated this year.

But the threat remains and every one of us should stay alert, cautious and compliant with health protocols prescribed by the government at all times. The economic reopening is not an excuse to lower our guard (or face mask) down.

I am confident we will begin to see positive growth numbers in the second quarter of 2021, after five straight quarters of contraction. Our economic potential remains promising, as shown by the stable peso, manageable inflation rate, investment-grade credit ratings, robust gross international reserves and a stable banking system.

However, the level of growth this year will largely depend on the pace of the vaccination program. If most workers and consumers can feel safe enough to venture out to job sites and market places without the threat of infection, then there is no other direction for the economy to move but up.

We should then continue to rely on digitalization and innovation to sustain our business operations and help the economy return to normal growth path. The pandemic led the economy to adopt digital technologies to make transactions more efficient and convenient. In fact, one can now pay real property tax through a mobile app, without the inconvenience of falling in line in government offices. It is also now possible to arrange a vaccination appointment through a mobile app.

Many things became possible, thanks to digital technology and innovation. Let us hope that these new technologies will help us recover faster from the pandemic and achieve our full potential under the new global economy.

For comments, e-mail mbv.secretariat@gmail.com or visit www.mannyvillar.com.ph.

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