ABAC pushes digital shift in Asia Pacific

Louella Desiderio (The Philippine Star) - October 23, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council (ABAC) Philippines is pushing for greater public-private collaboration on digital transformation to allow economies and businesses to recover from the pandemic.

Speaking at the ABAC Philippines Digital Innovation Forum yesterday, Sabin Aboitiz, ABAC member and Aboitiz Group president and chief executive officer said digitalization has allowed businesses to stay afloat during the global crisis and strong collaboration between the public and private sectors in this area would be key in allowing economies to move forward.

“Our collective experience these past months also points to how vital it is to have strong public-private collaboration. According to the Asian Development Bank, we particularly need close cooperation in order to protect consumers against cybercrimes and fraud, prevent illegal activities, enhance cybersecurity to prevent cyberattacks, and protect personal data and privacy,” he said.

He said while some companies struggled to make the shift, it was simply like flipping a switch for others including Aboitiz, as digital transformation efforts have been put in place several years back.

ABAC Philippines chair Tomas Alcantara said in the same event it is important to leverage on digital technology to achieve economic growth and take advantage of opportunities.

“The same digital technology will enable us to harness our human capital for the new future-of-work. And the same digital technology that will provide new products and services, that supports financial inclusion and growth of key sectors, including the SMEs (small and medium enterprises),” he said.

Trade Undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba said the government recognizes the role it has to play to help all businesses transition and adopt new technologies.

She said based on the technology utilization survey conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) last year, 77 percent of micro enterprises, 67 percent of small and medium businesses, and 83 percent of large enterprises are familiar with Industry 4.0 technologies.

Despite the awareness on the technologies, she said many are unable to utilize these due to lack of financial capability, market conditions, inadequate skills and poor digital infrastructure.

“There are uncertainties and risks that will be involved in terms of investing in these new technologies and through government programs, we’ll be able to share in terms of addressing these uncertainties and risks,” she said.

She said the government is implementing many initiatives to support businesses’ digital transformation.

In particular, the DTI is crafting a roadmap to make the Philippines a center of excellence for artificial intelligence.

Aldaba said the agency is also conducting a study for an Industry 4.0 pilot factory and SME Academy to provide trainings to businesses.

She said the DTI is also working with the Department of Labor and Employment, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in formulating an Industry 4.0 human resource development roadmap.

In addition, the DTI is working with SkillsFuture Singapore, a statutory board under the Ministry of Education, on a skills development framework to identify what sectors and skills would be in demand in the future.

ABAC serves as the primary voice of business in APEC.

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