PH Bets on Cloud, AI, 5G as Key Drivers of Economic Growth Post COVID-19

Published December 19, 2020, 8:55 PM

by Len Amadora

The Philippines has positioned artificial intelligence (AI), the cloud, and 5G as building blocks of its post-pandemic economic recovery, propelling the growth of emerging sectors like edutech, fintech, and insurtech. 

Discussions on “Fintech 2021 Philippine Outlook: The Key to Unlocking the Economy Post-COVID” have identified AI and the cloud as key technologies underpinning the future of legacy sectors like banking, education, and insurance. During this virtual forum organized by global tech leader   Huawei Philippines Inc. on December 11, industry stalwarts and policymakers highlighted the potential of 5G to help drive sustainable economic growth and bridge the digital divide.

TOP LINE (L-R): Ida Tiongson, Panel Moderator; Teck Guan Neo, Huawei Cloud APAC Senior Director, Simon Wu, Huawei Cloud APAC CTO
MIDDLE LINE (L-R): Li Hao Zhuang, FWD Insurance CEO; Amor Maclang, World Fintech Festival convener; Henry Aguda, UnionBank SEVP, Chief Technology & Operations Officer, Chief Transformation Officer
BOTTOM LINE: Arivuvel Ramu, Tonik CTO/CIO

Fintech Philippines Association (FPH) Executive Director Amor Maclang said automation and AI-driven technology will become more mainstream as the Philippine economy and more industries reboot towards digitization post-COVID-19.

“Asian-led tech revolution is upon us. Governments, corporations, and consumers now rely on tech as they advance in this new digital economy. The Philippines is well on its way to be a tech hub in Asia, with Huawei at the forefront. Technology is our joint advocacy in FPH. We look forward to a next phase of collaboration with Huawei Philippines, a way to put the government on the cloud,” Maclang said.

Fintech Philippines Association and Fintech Alliance Philippines hosted a signing ceremony on a unified sandbox, aimed at “teching-up” various verticals in the country. “We wish to be the glue and the fuel that would fire up new industries. This is not just a symbol of unity in the fintech community in the Philippines, but it also allows us to take part in the global fintech conversation,” Maclang said. 

According to Neo Teck Guan, Senior Director of Huawei Cloud Asia Pacific Region, what can speed up tech adoption in the region is the creation among stakeholders of “an ecosystem” driven by AI, 5G and Cloud to create new experiences, which in turn drive new applications development, to create new business scenarios. “Mobile First” is the FSI digitization trend. Everything now is heading to mobile, and this is where fintech is focusing on. To drive payments faster, 5G tech is needed. AI and software RPA (Robotic Process Automation) will modernize call centers. With a combination of all these technologies, you will be able to achieve core advancements in the future.”

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Director Melchor Plabasan said that regulators should also leverage these technological advancements to make functions more efficient, and ensure the seamless flow of data needed by other enabling agencies in order to move the country forward towards recovery.

“Most of the regulators have embraced cloud technology as the first step to digital transformation. At BSP, we recently launched our chatbots, and we are also in the process of acquiring API (application programming interface)-based regulatory system as well as an end-to-end cybersecurity supervision to enhance quality and timeliness of risk-based decisions. As an emerging market, we should embrace smart governance as this is the first step to building smart cities. This means enabling innovative solutions, like cloud, in our systems,” Plabasan said. 

In the private sector, insurance industry leaders like FWD Insurance President and Chief Executive Officer Li Hao Zhuang said they are starting to feel the benefits of building digital infrastructure for customers. He said, “We are looking at the correlation between bridging the digital divide and being able to provide Filipinos with insurance protection through tech. Only 7% of Filipinos have insurance, so we created digital-only policies to extend reach to more Filipinos, which resulted in an increase in policies.”

An ecosystem can also provide assistance and resources to sectors, like education, which remain restricted by fundamental gaps in mass adoption. Chief Marketing and Partnerships Officer Grace David pointed out that 800 schools shut down due to the difficulty of transitioning from a physical school set-up to distance learning.  “Edutech is starting to be embraced. but the mass adoption being experienced by fintech hasn’t been the same for edutech,” David said. “This is where we need to learn more: How did fintech ride the change from the critical mass resistance to the market finally accepting it?”

Wu Shiwei, Chief Technology Officer of Huawei Cloud for the Asia-Pacific Region, said the COVID-19 pandemic represents a remarkable catalyst for cloud and AI adoption in the Asia- Pacific region, especially in the Philippines, as organizations are rushing to embrace the transformational business opportunities these new technologies bring.

“Their key motivations to adopt cloud and AI are business agility and innovation. During the pandemic, the financial services industry quickly accelerated because they knew early on, they could cope with the crisis with cloud technologies,” Wu said. “Banks, through AI, are able to support SME clients with their loan applications. Governments around the region are also able to issue financial relief to individuals through the help of cloud and AI.”