Digital 2021: Philippines seen to embrace e-governance solutions; innovations for financial transactions, remote work

January 16, 2021 - 5:51 AM
Image by Timothy Muza via Unsplash

Several firms were prompted to get digitized in 2020 to help them cope with the challenges brought by the novel coronavirus pandemic which started first quarter of that year.

Various governments across the world imposed their respective lockdowns to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In the Philippines, all types of on-site social gathering, which include work and class, were strictly prohibited.

While travel restrictions have recently eased, the general public seemed to have gotten used to conducting their activities, including banking, shopping and work, via digital platforms.

In line with this, the national government is currently pushing to adopt smart city technologies in the future.

Baguio, the New Clark City in Pampanga, Davao, Cebu and Manila are among the places in the country that had laid the groundwork to develop their areas into smart cities.

A Smart City is a place that uses different types of electronic methods and sensors to collect data.

E-governance solutions

Vertiv, a global provider of critical digital infrastructure and continuity solutions, said the digital transformation and e-governance initiatives of all the cities in the country, just like the other smart cities across the globe, provide an opportunity to make the entire Philippines more resilient challenges like the current public health crisis or natural calamities.

“Following this devastation, preparedness for typhoons and other calamities has never been more important, for instance, in getting necessary data where they can draw insights to efficiently conduct pre-evacuation of residents in flood-prone and vulnerable areas. And as IT becomes integral, government agencies must have a ready infrastructure in place to ensure that services go on unhampered and citizens have access to services they need,”  Jason Lim, country manager of Vertiv Philippines said.

Lim added that governments are also turning to Artificial Intelligence and analytics in their technology initiatives. These are seen to enable the no-collar workforce or the increased use of cognitive assets, bots, and other technologies to support the existing workforce.

“Instead of replacing people, technology will augment the existing labor force in the drive to become a sustainable, hyperconnected society,” the firm said.

It added that it is integral for governments to rethink their strategy to include data sovereignty and protection as part of their e-governance solutions to make its services more efficient and secure amid the increasing use of online applications to connect citizens and businesses.

With the heavy reliance on information technology,  the firm provides E-Governance Solutions “to ensure uninterrupted operations, optimal performance, and scalability of data centers, communication networks, and other critical IT facilities needed in creating smarter and more resilient cities.”  

“The IT infrastructure should be designed not only to support critical operations, but it must also have robust monitoring and management framework for secure operations, intelligent notifications, and alerts to enable immediate action in case of emergencies,” Lim said.

In line with this, Department of Information and Communications Technology, the country’s primary agency promoting the adoption of eGovernment Services, has already developed the E-Government Masterplan 2022. 

It aims to create a networked and collaborative environment for improved public service delivery.

Digital innovations in banking and finance

Given the digital shift, banking firm PBCom, technology firm Cisco and mobile wallet app GCash said that their online users or clients also grew following the travel restrictions imposed in March.

In a webinar webinar series titled “New Normal Trends & Opportunities for the Philippine Financial Services,” PBCom and GCash said that their digital systems have been using technologies from Cisco when the lockdown or enhanced community quarantine was implemented.

Ariel Roda, chief information officer of PBCom, cited the usage of Cisco Webex, a videoconferencing application, as among the tools for the local bank’s push for digitization.

“Months prior to the pandemic, we’ve been able to set up a lot of alternative channels, digital and self-service, by which our customers, consumers, and corporates would continue receiving our services,” Roda said, adding that the videoconferencing application helped them continue relationship with their customers.

Roda also highlighted the convenience of opening a bank account for 15 minutes only compared to the hassle of personally filling out physical forms.

She also noted that the bank recently made an investment to improve the security of its customers such as “upgrades to its firewalls for improved monitoring of transactions, and self-service tools such as its social media and customer hotline.”

GCash, on the other hand, had been among the digital payment services widely used during the past year for purchases and other financial obligations.

Ana Pascual, vice President for Key Merchants and Acquirers of the mobile wallet app, disclosed that they currently have over 27 million registered users.

“Everyone learned how to buy their essentials online, pay their bills online, and all of those shifts. Thankfully, we have developed these products for the convenience of people not leaving their homes to do things, and in this particular situation, that’s exactly what was called for,” she said.

Sharoakh Charna, Industry Lead for FSI of Cisco APJC, cited a recent study that in Southeast Asia, there are 40 million users who connected to the internet in 2020. This was four times more than in 2019.

Charna projects that such inclusive and phenomenal expansion will grow ten times more by 2024.

She considers the pandemic as an opportunity that “allowed us to realize all the transformations that we wanted to do or were holding back to do. The transition towards the better normal helped move the banking industry forward.”

Improved remote working conditions 

Just like the governments and financial institutions, companies also adopted remote work.

In view of this, global cybersecurity firm Kaspersky asked independent research firm Censuswide to conduct a global study of how employees’ habits have changed, how they imagine the ideal workplace might function, and their view of new remote-working technologies

The study covered interview with over 8,000 people at small and medium-size businesses (with no more than 250 employees) in Brazil, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, South Africa, Turkey, the UAE, the UK and the US.

Of these, 37% respondents revealed that they want a flexible working structure moving forward, where they continue to
work mostly from home, but also visit the office regularly.

Nearly half of the respondents (47%) shared that spending more time with loved ones is the top benefit of working from home, followed by saving money (41%) and working
remotely (32%).

“The results show that most employees want change. When asked which established processes they don’t want to go back to, only a quarter of respondents said they were generally satisfied with how everything was before,” the cybersecurity firm said.

“Others want more flexibility: no more fixed hours or five-day work week, options to work remotely, and so on. They want to tailor their working hours to their personal needs — without sacrificing performance,” it added.

Because of this, Kaspersky suggested various ways on how the companies and businesses can successfully facilitate remote work amid the new normal. These are also the practices seen in workplaces this year.

Among them is the formation of human resource and IT communication channels where employees and the whole company can solve their issues. This can be done through webinars or group calls.

The firm also recommended educating of employees “to use basic security practices when working remotely, such as how to avoid becoming a victim of email or web phishing, or how to manage accounts and passwords.”

It also suggested for the companies to adopt a cloud-based security solution.

“Even small companies should protect themselves from cyberthreats, regardless of whether employees work on corporate or personal devices. Kaspersky Small Office Security can be installed remotely and managed from the cloud; it doesn’t require much time, resources or specific knowledge for deployment and management,” the cybersecurity firm said.

Aside from these technical solutions, the cybersecurity company also said organization of “Ask Me Anything” sessions with the company’s top management is a good move to help guide employees and keep the business working in the new circumstances. —Rosette Adel