The marketplace is changing and at such a rapid pace that has never been seen in history with digital technologies opening up virtually limitless possibilities in innovations that will reshape the way humans will live, work, and play on a planetary scale.
The most ubiquitous evidence of how technology has changed us is the smart phone that has become the default device to connect, interact, transact, and entertain.
Now that we have survived the pandemic, we have the opportunity to build on important lessons from that crisis.
One important learning that stands out is how we quickly adopted to technology to deal with severe disruptions of those lockdowns and how the new modes of digital transactions should be harnessed to bring us to, and even beyond pre-pandemic levels of economic growth.
The President in several pronouncements has given marching orders for a government wide digital transformation and has recruited the support of the private sector to engage in partnerships to help in what essentially will need to be a systemic overhaul of the slow, linear, redundant, and inefficient government bureaucracy to a level of productivity, transparency, and efficiency of public services that consumers are already getting from private enterprises that are already adept in integrated digital solutions in their operations.
The first challenge that the government will need to act on with urgency is the updating of obsolete government laws and policies which will need strong champions to push reforms that will be very disruptive to the old ways of bureaucrats as many human touch points can be automated with cloud based applications that will accomplish processes that would typically take hours, days, weeks or even more, in a matter of minutes and without the need travel and fall in long queues in local or national government offices.
Several policy reforms have been prioritized such as the E-Governance Act, and the Digital Transaction Act, among others.
The Ease of Doing Business Law which aims to cut the red tape in getting business registration and permit renewals will need the automation of these processes for government offices to comply.
On the grass roots level, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Department of the Interior and Local Government jointly launched to bring the convenience and efficiency of digital payment platforms down to public markets, daily commuter transportation and other SMEs in all cities and municipalities.
The idea of empowering all Filipino consumers with the ability to do daily transactions digitally came from a team of students of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños student who was one of the finalists of the BSP Youth Summit competition in 2021.
Kudos to these young innovators from UPLB: Martin Rafael Torres, Reymar Angelo Cabatu, Harper de Leon, Oliver Caile Montesar, and Paolo Nicomedes.
The team’s adviser Joram Obsioma said in a published statement, “The concept was aimed at helping Filipinos face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, while promoting financial digitalization.”
Obsioma explained that “By helping palengkes go digital, we not only help market vendors protect themselves against COVID-19, but also to cope with the fast-changing financial environment-’yung hindi sila mapag-iiwanan ng mga malls and techie businesses,”.
By now, QR (Quick Response) codes are those square shaped images with an array of many squares that are uniquely arranged in what looks like a matrix of sorts.
This is a familiar feature that you may see when shopping online or even in brick-and-mortar stores that you can simply scan with your smart phone and fulfill your purchase.
Consumer advocacy group CitizenWatch Philippines co-convenor, former HOR Representative, Atty. Kit Belmonte in a recently published statement has called on local governments to encourage their constituents in the grassroots to shift to digital transactions, saying the benefits of technology must be felt by all.
“The use of technology should be extended to market vendors, community shopkeepers, tricycle operators and drivers, farmers and small merchants,” Atty. Belmonte said.
The top payment platforms such as GCash have integrated QR codes for the ease of their users and are seeing an increase in the volume of transactions.
These has led to the substantial improvement of the ratio of banked and unbanked Filipinos which BSP 2021 figures show banking penetration at 56 perent and sees demand for financial services growing at a rate of 9 to 10 percent.
The BSP-DILG Joint Memorandum Circular issued in June 2022 already outlines the implementing guidelines and roles and responsibilities anent to the program.
All local government leaders should help enable their constituents, especially those still in the informal, micro-enterprise level and their consumers by working with the BSP in rolling out the Paleng-QR PH Plus in their local ecosystems.
Beyond convenience, expansion of the Paleng-QR PH Plus program will expose more Filipinos to financial services and become integrated into the formal banking system which can open bigger and more profitable entrepreneurial opportunities.