“Tech for Good” is a key enabler for inclusive, equitable and sustainable growth in the Philippines.
This was a key insight at the Research Presentation and Dialogue on 22 September 2023 by regional think-tank, Tech for Good Institute (TFGI) and the Asian Institute of Management Rizalino S. Navarro Policy Center for Competitiveness. The presentation and dialogue focused on TFGI’s latest research paper – From Tech for Growth to Tech for Good.
The study, which involved over 130 participants from government agencies, digital economy companies (DECs), think tanks and civil society organisations from Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, was supported by AsiaTechX Programme Office and the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore. The question was how these important stakeholders envisioned the next stage of digital transformation for their own countries, and for the region.
The study found alignment across the countries that the future of Southeast Asia, at both regional and national levels, will depend on a collaborative effort to foster inclusive, equitable, climate-resilient and sustainable growth, enabled by the digital economy and the integration of online-to-offline (O2O) economies, as well as increasing innovation and startup activity.
The Philippines is one of the fastest growing digital economies thanks to continuous innovation across the information and communications technology (ICT) space. With the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 identifying key sectors such as e-commerce, fintech, platform companies and the gig economy, Gross Merchandise Value is expected to reach US$40bn by 2025. The country’s rapid digital transformation – especially during the pandemic – have been enabled by local, regional and global Digital Economy Companies (DECs), which in turn have also become catalysts for local innovation, livelihood job creation, and human capital development.
Findings from Philippines and the Region
In line with respondents from across the region, Philippines stakeholders identified two common enablers to leverage technology to deliver sustainable growth.
First, innovation at a technical and technological level had to be complemented with innovation in business models and modes of governance. Only with innovation at all levels can there be an enabling ecosystem for growth, while protecting citizens and society, and ensuring national interest for the population.
And second, this innovation had to be coupled with building a confident digital society to ensure whole-of-society safety, resilience and inclusive benefit.
For Philippines in particular, stakeholders highlighted the need for:
1) affordable quality access across the archipelago;
2) a national ICT skills roadmap and capacity-building for meaningful and productive participation in the digital economy;
3) outreach to traditionally underserved populations, such as rural communities, women, the elderly and persons with disabilities;
4) building trust in emerging technologies through effective governance, such as verified digital identities for every citizen;
5) impactful investment and innovation, sandboxes to promote innovation and a review of the national IP strategy; and
6) evidence-based research to inform policy making with open communication channels for the public, private and people sectors to provide inputs into regulation.
Holistic approach for quality economic growth
The Research Presentation was followed by a Dialogue with Senator Grace Poe, Ms. Grace Vera Cruz (Country Head, Grab Philippines), Mr. Winsley Bangit (Vice-President of New Businesses, Mynt), Mr. John Rubio (Country Director, Meta Philippines) and Mr. Prim Paypon (Executive Director, AIM – Dado Banatao Incubator), moderated by Dr Ming Tan (Founding Executive Director of TFGI).
Senator Grace Poe shared the important role of the government in the digital ecosystem, “As we move forward, the government must play a supporting role in our mission of digital inclusion. This entails not only building an enabling environment, but also modernising our analogue legislation and constructing a legal environment that nurtures innovation, rather than one that stifles it.”
Dr. Jamil Paolo Francisco mentioned, “Engaging regional partners like TFGI in continuous dialogue on how to adapt the newest technologies to the specific needs and particular context of a labor-abundant, emerging economy like the Philippines allows us to learn from various country experiences and best practices across industries. It also fosters a collaborative environment for win-win growth and development.”
Dr Ming Tan noted, “When impact is the driving purpose of technology, there is much scope to align innovation with the developmental goals of the country and region. The key trend that the Tech for Good Institute is seeing is the broadening of priorities for digitalisation beyond economic value creation. The potential of technology must be managed in a more proactive and collaborative manner to ensure an inclusive, equitable and sustainable future for all. The Tech for Good Institute serves the entire innovation ecosystem across Southeast Asia as a platform and catalyst for dialogue, research and collaboration. However, insights must be grounded in local context and to this end, we are grateful for the opportunity to work with Asian Institute of Management-Rizalino S. Navarro Policy Center for Competitiveness and in the Philippines with partners from the public, private and civil sectors.”