Globe: Pandemic speeds up shift to digitalization

Published July 11, 2020, 10:00 PM

by Emmie V. Abadilla

It’s ironic that it took a pandemic  to speed up digitalization in the Philippines.

But that’s exactly what happened.

Filipinos are now adopting a digital life faster due to the coronavirus scare, confirmed Globe Telecom President and CEO Ernest Cu. “In many ways, the health crisis has given digital transformation a much-needed push.”

Hence, “I think the cities of the future will be fully powered by digital.  Filipinos are becoming more open to trying new things. 

Opportunities in digital are happening and it’s something that we are also exploring,” he pointed out.

For this reason, the Globe CEO expects more companies to get into on-demand services such as taxi/car hailing services, online grocery shopping, door-to-door delivery, and even entertainment.

Digitalization also boosted telemedicine. People realized it’s more convenient and affordable to consulting doctors within the comforts of their homes.

Globe’s KonsultaMD, which helps people get 24/7 medical advice from licensed doctors without going to clinics or hospitals, registered an over 450% surge in online consultations, in May, as compared to January  this year.

Furthermore, digitalization  boosted contactless transactions as never before.

Apprehensive of handling physical  money for fear of contracting the virus, people started going cashless when paying for goods and services.  

Getting consumers to change their habits has always been a challenge ever since Globe introduced the smartphones and went on to offer streaming music and then streaming video. 

GCash, Globe’s e-money product, took 15 years to be accepted as a way of doing transactions.

Today, brick-and-mortar companies offering various products and services — from food to clothing, medicines to medical consultation, home appliances to gym equipment, and insurance coverage among others, are getting adept at using digital payments like GCash,  online order platforms and on demand delivery services. 

As demand for digital finance soared among locked down Filipinos, their transactions via mobile wallet GCash on May this year ballooned 700 percent versus the same period last year.

The record spike in GCash transactions covered bank cash-in, which includes Instapay, plus online payments to Google, Apple, Lazada, and other merchants.

“The pandemic forced all of us to adopt digital solutions to avoid contracting the virus,”  explained GCash President & CEO Martha Sazon.

“The steady uptrend on transactions using GCash shows that Filipinos are now being more dependent on digital solutions,” she added.

Since the start of the community quarantines, Filipinos turned to digital services, given the government’s physical distancing and strict health protocols to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Online marketplaces became busier and businesses set up their own digital storefronts to continue operations.

Food delivery and online grocery shopping surged and fund transfers through GCash become a preferred mode of domestic remittance.

“We  stir up economic activity, bringing merchants and consumers closer, at least digitally,” Sazon noted.

From the onset of the pandemic, GCash helped thousands of merchants and social sellers connect with customers via a secure and convenient mobile payments system.

In addition, GCash powered the national government’s Social Amelioration Program (SAP), allowing beneficiaries to use their GCash wallets to receive financial assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Aside from this, GCash processed the financial aid of the local governments of Makati, Quezon City and Pasig to disburse supplemental cash assistance to residents.

“All these drove our unprecedented growth in May,” according to Sazon. And “We expect to continue riding this momentum.”

Since May this year, GCash was the top finance app in both Android and iOS.

It  has  been included in the list of top apps next only to social media app TikTok and social conferencing app Zoom.

However, digitalization still depends on connectivity and many local government units are still hampering the building of telecom infrastructure due to red tapes in permitting requirements.

This year alone, Globe is shelling out over ₱60 billion on infrastructure builds to increase capacity and network upgrades around the country.

“We will keep introducing new digital concepts to enhance people’s lives.  I think the cycle of adoption and  appreciation will be much shorter now given the pandemic. It has been a long process convincing people to adopt digitalization but I think this situation has made them realize that digital does work.  It’s not only for millennials or for the young people, it is really for everyone since it provides a certain level of convenience,” the Globe President concluded.