July 18, 2019
An all-encompassing theme emerged from the presentations by the 14 speakers at The Manila Times Digital Transformation and Innovation Forum on Tuesday: digital transformation is not simply a good choice for companies and individuals to make to stay ahead of their peers in the future, but an inevitable, imperative step to take now to survive the future.
For the average person, the term “digital transformation” seems to mean, “doing more things using the internet” or computerizing the daily routine tasks one has to perform. After all, it is the everyday consumer who benefits the most from finding his or her life being progressively improved by digital innovations.
For people to truly maximize those benefits, however, and more importantly, for business and government to effectively lead and manage the digital transformation, the profound changes it is bringing must be understood.
As we learned from our distinguished speakers at the forum, there is virtually no aspect of life in the Philippines that is not being comprehensively changed by digital innovation. New digital tools and capabilities are reshaping the banking industry, and changing the ways in which we manage our personal finances. Through the power of smartphone technology available to almost everyone, more people than ever before are gaining access to formal financial services, whether through banks like UnionBank of the Philippines and the Bank of the Philippine Islands who are extending their reach digitally, or financial technology providers like Cashalo.
The digital transformation is radically reshaping business as well. It is creating entirely new business models for industries that not so long ago seemed monolithic. A perfect example is IBM, or International Business Machines, which, as a leader of the digital revolution, no longer makes typewriters, simple calculators or copiers of the old era, but has transformed itself into a creator of digital tools — ideas and systems that help other businesses do more and undertake their own innovations.
Digital transformation has even fundamentally altered society. Digital phenomena such as Facebook and other social media have radically changed the ways in which we interact with one another and form those personal and group connections, and, thus, is changing society itself.
For those who are charged with maintaining our safety and security, the digital transformation has raised tough challenges that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago, but now seem to lurk around every corner. Officials of the National Privacy Commission and the National Bureau of Investigation described the government’s efforts to combat cybercrime and protect data privacy. While they stressed that they are confident in their capabilities, are constantly improving, and have been successful in their efforts, the threats are just as constantly evolving. Maintaining safety and privacy protection requires constant vigilance on the part of law enforcement, businesses and private citizens alike.
Fortunately, our leaders have had the foresight to realize that embracing digital transformation is a vital priority. Assistant Secretary Alan Silor of the Department of Information and Communications Technology explained how government policy is rapidly evolving to effectively lead the digital transformation of the Philippines, improving capabilities and creating an environment in which innovation can thrive.
The most important part of that, as Asst. Sec. Silor and many of the speakers noted, is changing mindsets and the way digital technology and its capabilities are perceived by government, business and the public.
After hearing what the experts told the public they and their organizations were already doing, there is little doubt that the digital transformation of the Philippines is well underway. But as the experts and innovators lead the country into the digital future, the government from the top down to the local government units level must ensure all sectors of society have a chance to equip themselves, not only to survive the onslaught of digitalization but to cope well and thrive in the new digital world.
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