Enabling a Resilient Digital Economy in the Philippines

In this article, Jose Carlos Reyes, Director of the Cybersecurity Bureau at the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT), Philippines shares his insights into how a resilient digital economy in the Philippines can be fostered. This article builds on Tech For Good Institute’s (TFGI) latest research on cyber resilience.

By Jose Carlos Reyes, Director, Cybersecurity Bureau, DICT, Philippines

The Philippine digital economy is experiencing rapid growth, providing a boost to the country’s overall economy. Businesses, both large and small, are utilising digital solutions to enhance efficiency, optimise resources, and deliver innovative digital goods and services. The rate of digital adoption in the country has also risen, with more people incorporating digital technologies into their daily lives. For instance, it is estimated that 75.5 million Filipinos will possess an e-wallet by 2025, a significant increase compared to the 9 million e-wallet users in 2017.

However, despite the increasing adoption of digital technologies, cyber-attacks have become more sophisticated and widespread. Phishing, ransomware, and business email compromise are among the cyber risks faced by the country. Given the interconnected nature of society in this new digital reality, these cyber threats impact everyone—from governments and businesses to micro, small, and medium enterprises, and individuals.

The need for cyber resilience is evident. The overarching vision is to establish a trusted, secure, and reliable digital future for all Filipinos. Strengthening the country’s cybersecurity policy framework, developing a cybersecurity workforce, and ensuring proactive consumer protection are the ultimate objectives.

Strengthening the Philippines’ Cybersecurity Framework

To fortify the cybersecurity posture of the country, the Department of Information and Communications Technology drafted the Philippine National Cybersecurity Plan 2023-2028. This marks the second iteration of the plan, demonstrating the government’s commitment to updating policies and adapting to the evolving threat landscape. While currently in the draft stage, the aim is to establish a Cybersecurity Act that would serve as an enabling law to further enhance the country’s capacity to protect digital assets. The updated plan is based on standards and risk-based methods, with a new emphasis on protecting critical infrastructure.

Moreover, having common standards is key to strengthening the cybersecurity policy framework in the Philippines. These standards provide a common vocabulary towards a shared goal, especially in facilitating coordination and conversations with governments, businesses, and international partners. When formulating these policies, there is a need to balance technology’s performance, security, interoperability, and safety requirements. Coordination between the government and the private sector is crucial, especially in addressing complexities in assessment regimes, accreditations, and certifications.

Developing the Cybersecurity Workforce

However, cyber resilience is not solely about policy or technical standards. The human element remains crucial. Developing competent cybersecurity professionals is essential to realising a secure digital future. Promoting digital literacy and cyber hygiene is equally vital. In an age of digitalisation, citizens must be aware of cyber threats and equipped to protect themselves. Securing the country’s cyberspace is a collaborative effort with the end goal of fostering a culture of vigilance and awareness among everyone.

Collaborating with the academe across the nation is one of the DICT’s priorities in enforcing its National Cybersecurity Plan. The department hopes to incorporate cybersecurity education into the academic curriculum by forming collaborations with academic institutions. This will guarantee that students have the information and abilities needed to tackle today’s cybersecurity issues. These collaborations involve the development of specialised courses and degree programs in cybersecurity. By working closely with universities, the DICT ensures that the content is relevant, up-to-date, and aligned with the dynamic nature of cyber threats. This proactive approach not only addresses the immediate demand for skilled professionals but also establishes a sustainable pipeline of cybersecurity talent for the future.

Ensuring Consumer Protection

Finally, customer protection is crucial. To ensure that the digital economy remains vibrant and growing, it is important to foster and preserve the trust of digital consumers. The realm of information security and cybersecurity may sound like a technical endeavour, but it is a job for all and not just cybersecurity professionals. While policies are in place, there is also a need to equip Filipinos with the necessary competencies to identify cyber threats and protect themselves from the dangers of cyberspace. In this case, promoting digital literacy and cyber hygiene is essential.

Citizens must be educated about cyber threats and empowered to protect themselves. Securing the country’s cyberspace is a collective endeavour that cultivates a culture of vigilance and awareness. It is through this collaborative approach, especially with the public and private sectors, to build digital trust, foster innovation, and create a safer digital economy that benefits all Filipinos.

Achieving a resilient digital economy requires commitment, collaboration, and cooperation. In the Philippines, it is crucial to find the synergies between the public, private, and people sectors to deliver a secure cyberspace for all.

About the writer

Jose Carlos Reyes is a Professional Electronics Engineer by profession. He was previously the President of the Philippine National Committee of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and currently the Sub-Committee Chairman of the Information Technology Security Standards of the Bureau of Philippine Standards, the mirror committee of the ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee on Information Technology.  He was also the former National President of the Institute of Electronics Engineers of the Philippines.

  

The views and recommendations expressed in this article are solely of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the views and position of the Tech for Good Institute.

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Mouna Aouri

Programme Fellow

Mouna Aouri is an Institute Fellow at the Tech For Good Institute. As a social entrepreneur, impact investor, and engineer, her experience spans over two decades in the MENA region, South East Asia, and Japan. She is founder of Woomentum, a Singapore-based platform dedicated to supporting women entrepreneurs in APAC through skill development and access to growth capital through strategic collaborations with corporate entities, investors and government partners.

Dr Ming Tan

Founding Executive Director

Dr Ming Tan is founding Executive Director for the Tech for Good Institute, a non-profit founded to catalyse research and collaboration on social, economic and policy trends accelerated by the digital economy in Southeast Asia. She is concurrently a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Governance and Sustainability at the National University of Singapore and Advisor to the Founder of the COMO Group, a Singaporean portfolio of lifestyle companies operating in 15 countries worldwide.  Her research interests lie at the intersection of technology, business and society, including sustainability and innovation.

 

Ming was previously Managing Director of IPOS International, part of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, which supports Singapore’s future growth as a global innovation hub for intellectual property creation, commercialisation and management. Prior to joining the public sector, she was Head of Stewardship of the COMO Group and the founding Executive Director of COMO Foundation, a grantmaker focused on gender equity that has served over 47 million women and girls since 2003.

 

As a company director, she lends brand and strategic guidance to several companies within the COMO Group. Ming also serves as a Council Member of the Council for Board Diversity, on the boards of COMO Foundation and Singapore Network Information Centre (SGNIC), and on the Digital and Technology Advisory Panel for Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay, Singapore’s national performing arts centre.

 

In the non-profit, educational and government spheres, Ming is a director of COMO Foundation and Singapore Network Information Centre (SGNIC) and chairs the Asia Advisory board for Swiss hospitality business and management school EHL. She also serves on  the Council for Board Diversity and the Digital and Technology Advisory Panel for Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay, Singapore’s national performing arts centre.

 

Ming was educated in Singapore, the United States, and England. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University and her doctorate from Oxford.