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Building Back Better through Digital Innovation

The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) Philippines, in partnership with the Aboitiz Group and Globe Business held its biggest virtual event for the year to promote digital transformation in the “new normal,” the ABAC PH Digital Innovation Forum last October 21.  

The forum gathered experts from the Asia-Pacific region to share best practices and successful models on how digital technology and innovation can drive a future-ready workforce, promote financial inclusion, and boost MSME recovery and growth. 

ABAC Philippines underscored the role of digital innovation in promoting inclusive and resilient growth, even as we are addressing the pandemic. In his opening remarks, ABAC PH Chair, Thomas Alcantara shared, “the challenge is to ensure that economic growth, and the opportunities from a more liberalized trade and investment will benefit all, especially the developing economies.” The need to maximize regional cooperation was further emphasized by ABAC PH Member, Sabin Aboitiz of Aboitiz Group. “Countries need to come together to address the gaps in both resources and strategy on the road to building back better,” said Aboitiz in his keynote.

Session 1. Digital Innovation for the Future of Work: Harnessing Human Capital in the Digital Age
Presentation 1: Vladimir Glasinovic, Talento Digital (Chile)
Presentation 2: Michael Fung, SkillsFuture (Singapore)
Presentation 3: Lito Tayag, IBPAP (Philippines)

The first session highlighted the importance of building a workforce with 21st century skills. To achieve this, education must be agile and flexible, with STEM curriculum integrated in its early stages.

  • Talento Digital conducts coding bootcamp that provides rapid training in IT skills based on the current industry needs. Executive Director Vladimir Glasinovic said the important first step, especially in the digital age, is to have a curious mind.
  • SkillsFuture provides a pathway for skills mastery and mental readiness to create transformational change. Deputy Chief Executive Michael Fung shared the need to reimagine and transform education, and that it must be flexible and agile.
  • IBPAP hones in on skills based on the changing demands and increases resilience of the IT-BPM industry by collaborating with the government and other businesses. IBPAP Chairman and Country Managing Director of Accenture Philippines stressed that STEM should be embedded in the education system at the earliest possible stage.

Session 2. Digital Innovation for Financial Inclusion: Leveraging technology to reach the underserved and the unbanked
Presentation 4: Pieter Franken, ASEAN Financial Innovation Network
Presentation 5: Ellen Joyce Suficiencia, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

The second session highlighted that innovations in the financial sector must be constantly applied and tested free from overly restrictive regulations.

  • AFIN provides a pre-assembled platform that will ‘automize’ the financial institutions (FIs) based on their needs. Through the APIX Exchange, it is helping FIs to go digital. AFIN Director Pieter Franken said the biggest mistake in financial inclusion is “thinking too much about it.” 
  • Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas stimulates bank financing for MSMEs. Ellen Joyce Suficienca, Executive Director of BSP, said measures are being undertaken towards sustainable MSME financing (credit risk database, credit surety fund, MSME demand side survey, supply chain financing).

Session 3. Digital Innovation for MSME Development: Empowering MSMEs to connect to the world
Presentation 6: Jose Paulo Soliman, Unionbank
Presentation 7: Michelle Curry, TOQQA Global
Presentation 8: Rafaelita Aldaba, Department of Trade and Industry (Philippines)

The third session reiterated the critical role of industry-academe-public sector linkages. Addressing redtape and ensuring ease of doing business particularly for MSMEs would not only facilitate access to finance, but also addresses efficiency and scalability.

  • UnionBank helps transform MSME into e-commerce to allow them to earn more through UBP’s globalinker. Unionbank VP and Head of SME Platforms Jose Paulo Soliman noted the urgent need to bring MSMEs into the financial ecosystem to provide more opportunities for funding and loans. 
  • TOQQA Global provides platforms that create ecosystems and integrate back- (operations) and front- (consumers and sales) end productivity capabilities of MSMEs and their networks. TOQQA founder Michelle Curry shared that these “super apps” can be game-changers, especially in cash-reliant economies. 
    DTI Industry 4.0 readiness initiative pushes industries to be more efficient and scalable. DTI Undersecretary for Competitiveness and Innovation Group Rafaelita Aldaba presented that 79% of the 144 respondents have very low levels of technology utilization, based on their SMART Manufacturing Maturity Index.