About a year ago, we convened meetings on digitalization. It was attended by relevant stakeholders of the digital ecosystem to get the message across in terms of the tremendous impact of embracing digitalization. I believe that it is the way forward and the key to achieving inclusive growth in the country. This is why, as the presidential adviser for entrepreneurship, my office has been organizing a series of high-level dialogues and consultation meetings to provide an avenue for the players and enablers to raise their concerns, as well as recommendations, in pushing for digitalization in the country.
A side note, during our meeting with President Duterte last April 3, the three pillars (tourism, agriculture, and digitalization) for a more inclusive economy were presented. This is where we are putting our efforts. The tourism summit last May 2, clearly pointed the need to build and modernize our airports which are already happening in Cebu, Bohol, and Clark. The recent NAIA proposal is now up for approval of the National Economic and Development Authority. The full impact of these projects will be felt toward the end of the President’s term, but as this happens, entrepreneurs will begin to invest in these areas through hotels, hostels, bed and breakfast and other businesses.
Going back, last May 20, we gathered more than 30 digital platform brands for the Angat Lahat sa Digital Alliance Meeting. The idea is to form a private-sector led group composed of digital platforms to work closely with the government in influencing and educating more Filipinos about the impact and opportunities of digitalization especially to our MSMEs (micro, small and medium entrepreneurs). The meeting was called to form the alliance and send a strong message of support to the government from the private sector in creating a more enabling environment for digital entrepreneurs to thrive. The alliance will work on creating a roadmap to move the Philippines forward in terms of digital transformation.
One of the main agenda of the discussion is the creation of an intensive information campaign and talk to the common folks- the sari-sari store and carinderia owners, the habal-habal drivers, the masahistas, and all the entrepreneurs in the informal economy- to raise awareness about the different digital platforms and opportunities that they can take advantage of. The goal is to bring about 70 million to 80 million Filipinos to be part of the growing digital economy.
We also shared to the group the initiative we have started on digitalizing the sari-sari stores which we are initially working with Lendr, Mynt and FMCG companies equipping sari-sari store owners with tools and resources so they can access mobile payments and financial services to help them increase their credit-worthiness using transactional data.
But there are still a lot of things to be done and improved on. Concerns were raised during the discussion. One of them is the regulation efficiency from the side of the enablers. Ray Alimurong of Lazada Philippines mentioned that at some point, the digital platforms do not know which national agency governs them. During the crafting of the E-commerce Roadmap of 2016-2020, platforms like Lazada and Zalora were not consulted. Brian Cu of Grab also emphasized the need for sandboxes to allow the platforms to continue innovating and experimenting with what will benefit society.
While the private sector has its own concerns, Pia Tayag from BSP also asked the help of the private sector in making a push from the side of entrepreneurs to have transactional accounts in tandem with the efforts of the government’s National Retail Payment System (NRPS) framework thus creating increased efficiencies and access to financial services for both the consumers and businesses.
Director Senen Perlada of DTI also agreed that moving forward, the group must be part of the consultation especially in the creation of the new E-Commerce Roadmap, after the previous one expires, for additional valuable inputs.
The desire to go forward is evident with the players in the industry, but it is a matter of getting them organized. Platforms shared what each is respectively doing to bring in more entrepreneurs into the digital economy. To create a greater impact for more Filipinos, the alliance hopes to collaboratively work on programs instead of doing things on their own. My office will take the lead in documenting and consolidating the pro-poor programs and initiatives of the digital platforms to be presented to President Duterte in August. We plan to invite the beneficiaries of the platforms to present to our enablers the impact of their platforms on the lives of micro-entrepreneurs and get their continued support.
Aside from the event with the President, we are also planning for a bigger activity in October to officially launch the alliance.
We always anchor our programs and initiatives on the 3Ms of MSME development (mentorship, money, and market). We have been going full blast and nationwide in implementing offline mentorship programs in partnership with the Departments of Trade and Industry, of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform. With the Mentor Me App, we are integrating online mentorship which will eventually become a portal to access the basic curriculum on mentorship and coherently have access to the training of partner digital platforms providing greater access to mentorship for people who want to become digital entrepreneurs.