By Chino S. Leyco
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the launching of a bank catering to the needs of overseas-based Filipinos is the ideal vehicle for the Philippines to “leapfrog” to the digital economy.
Dominguez said advancing significantly in the digital economy could be done in the Philippines because it has not yet fully embraced computer technologies, unlike in other countries that have already invested heavily in software and hardware that are now fast becoming obsolete.
The Overseas Filipino Bank (OFB), which was launched last January, could be the starting point for the country’s jump into the data-based economy, the finance chief believes.
Instead of setting up physical branches overseas, Dominguez said OFB would just rely on digital technology applications to serve as many overseas-based Filipinos as possible.
Ten million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) could be the initial beneficiaries of the technological leapfrog by OFB that would radically transform the way Filipinos buy, receive and sell and distribute goods and services.
Dominguez said this was one of the main points that stood out when a Philippine delegation led by him took part in the three-day New Economy workshop organized by the Alibaba Business School of technology entrepreneur Jack Ma in Hangzhou, China.
The workshop, the first overseas government training program hosted by Alibaba, was organized following Ma’s invitation last year for Dominguez and other Philippine officials to learn more about his company’s digital infrastructure for e-commerce.
“Among the takeaways we had as a group there was that the Philippines has the opportunity of leapfrogging a lot of (digital) applications because we are not too much computerized yet, unlike other countries that have hard investments in hardware which is fast becoming obsolete but they still hang on to them because they invested so much money in them,” Dominguez said.
The finance chief said that to leapfrog to the digital economy, the first concern that should be addressed is to ease financial regulations that stymie the growth of electronic commerce in the country.
“We asked (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) Deputy Governor (Maria Almasara) Cyd Amador to better check all the regulations in the central bank, and everything that chokes this kind of business to take these out,” Dominguez said.