From Tech for Growth to Tech for Good: Unlocking Quality Digital Economy Growth in the Philippines

In partnership with Asian Institute of Management’s Rizalino S. Navarro Policy Center for Competitiveness. (AIM), Tech for Good Institute conducted a Research Presentation and Dialogue on 22 September 2023 In Manila, Philippines. The event is built upon TFGI’s latest research paper – From Tech for Growth to Tech for Good.

Left to Right: Dr Ming Tan, Senator Grace Poe, Mr. John Rubio, Ms. Grace Vera Cruz, Mr. Winsley Bangit and Mr. Prim Paypon 

The Philippines is one of the fastest growing digital economies in Southeast Asia. The country’s internet economy is expected to reach a gross merchandise value of US$40 billion by 2025. This rapid digital transformation is enabled by the government’s recognition of the digital economy’s potential for economic growth, the innovation from digital economy companies, and the increase in digital adoption among Filipino users.  

WIth this potential, there is a massive opportunity for the Philippines to leverage technology not only to achieve financial and economic growth but also to address social, developmental and environmental challenges.  The research presentation and dialogue convened government leaders and the private sector stakeholders to discuss relevant, timely and actionable policy recommendations that will broaden the desired outcomes for the digital economy. 

Moderator and panellists:

Key Insights from the Panel:

  • Ensuring quality digital connectivity will enable inclusive digital economy growth. 

Given the archipelagic nature of the Philippines, the speakers highlighted the need for a fast, reliable, and affordable internet connectivity for all. Currently, internet penetration in Philippine households stands at 56.1 percent. This is largely driven by mobile broadband networks. To ensure that no one gets left behind in the country’s digital progress, efforts towards improved connectivity should include underserved communities especially in remote areas.

 

  • Leveraging social media for more productive use. 

The Philippines remains one of the top users of social media globally. According to advertising firms We are Social and Hootsuite, 72.5 percent of Filipinos have access to at least one social media site. A challenge for the Philippines however is to encourage a more productive use of social media. 

Social sites and digital platforms can be used to encourage entrepreneurship and education. For entrepreneurs, experts noted the “equalisation” effect social media brings to the market. Micro, small, and medium enterprises can use social media to promote their products and services, communicate with their customers, and reach untapped markets. On the other hand, social sites can help promote community building across cultures and across borders. This provides another avenue for users to access information and learn new skills. Digital literacy, however, is critical in this regard to ensure that users have the necessary awareness to discern reliable and accurate information from the internet. 

 

  • Policy innovation is essential to drive digital and business innovation. 

The rate upon which digital and business innovation moves is faster than the rate of development of new laws. This introduces unforeseen challenges as DECs pursue growth and unintended risks to users. It is imperative for governments to create a responsive regulatory environment that balances innovation and consumer protection. 

During the discussion, the speakers highlighted the importance of updating archaic and outdated laws to reflect the nuances and needs of the new digital reality. For example, There is space for DECs and the governments to work together and co-create new legislations that would enable DECs to scale while ensuring proper safeguards are in place to protect the public’s interest. Innovative practices such as sandboxes and data-driven policy making can help inform these new policies. 

 

  • Efforts to ‘modernise’ the regulatory environment for the Philippine digital economy is in progress.

From the government side, there are key legislative developments that seek to ‘modernise’ the regulatory environment.  The Public Services Act was recently amended to encourage more players in the digital economy. In addition, there are also planned laws such as: the Open Access on Internet Act which aims to simplify requirements and the registration process for Internet Service Providers (ISP); the Better Internet Act which sets a minimum standard for Internet connection and encourage ISPs to expand to underserved areas; and the E-Government Services Act which promotes the use of technology and technology-powered tools to improve the delivery of government services. On the cybersecurity side, the government is also in the process of passing the Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Act that will provide a framework to ensure the security and reliability of the country’s digital ecosystem. 

Overall, the speakers emphasised that a “wais” (resourceful), hopeful, empowered and confident digital society will enable the “speedy” development of the digital ecosystem.

 

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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.