Establish a digital enablement strategy for workers and MSMEs, group urges gov't

The national government must craft and implement a digital enablement strategy in order to strengthen the knowledge and skills of Filipino workers and even the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the country, an advocacy group said on Saturday, Nov. 26.

And this could be rightly done, according to CitizenWatch Philippines co-convenor Orlando Oxales, through proper collaboration with the telecommunication companies and educational institutions.

“Investments in digital infrastructure will mean nothing if not complemented by investments in digital enablement. Ultimately, end-users of the technology have to have the necessary knowledge, skills, and predisposition to adapt to the changing times," said Oxales.

Oxales pointed out that enabling Filipino workers and small businesses to digitally adapt is a way of empowering them and preparing them for the future.

Based on the data of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), there are a total of 1,080,810 business enterprises operating in the country and of this figure, 99.58 percent are MSMEs--which translates to majority of Philippine labor force working in MSMEs.

Micro enterprises constitute 90.54 (978,612) of total establishments, followed by small enterprises at 8.63 percent (93,230) and medium enterprises at 0.41 percent (4,437).

“Digital skills are life skills. These days, whatever we do in our professional and personal life has a component of basic digital skills – inputting our transaction in the bank, booking a ride through an app, or attending a virtual meeting. It follows that digital skills are a must for anybody who wants to participate in the ever-growing digital economy," said Oxales.

“People have to have the inclination to learn new skills because technology is changing at a fast pace, and the skills we have today may not be as relevant as they would be five or ten years down the line," he added.

Oxales said that the collaboration should produce a roadmap on how our people and our MSMEs can have the required skill sets to compete in a highly competitive digital economy.

He argued that the most successful digital economies are the ones which have implemented digital skills strategies for their populations: "It is a long-term effort to ensure that their people are employable, productive, creative and prosperous “The research shows that there will be tens of millions of jobs for people with advanced digital skills in the coming years."

A growing demand

In a study conducted by the Asian Development Bank and LinkedIn, it showed a similar pattern in the Asia-Pacific region, with 75 percent of employers reporting a rise in demand for new hires with digital skills over the last five years.

In the Philippines alone, 64 percent of employers are convinced of the same, and that six of the last 10 employees hired were required to have basic digital skills.

The report, called Digital Jobs and Digital Skills: A Shifting Landscape in Asia and the Pacific, found that most employers in the four countries (Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and the Philippines) now deem digital skills – such as proficiency with collaboration tools or basic internet skills for commerce – as essential workplace skills. Advanced skills such as coding and programming are also gaining ground.

The ADB said that the digital economy in Asia and the Pacific is growing at great speed, with e-commerce expected to reach $2 trillion by 2025.

“As digital skills and credentials grow in prominence, we must ensure that education systems are helping to narrow the digital divide for disadvantaged or marginalized people—and not widening them," said the Bank’s Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department Director Bruno Carrasco.

Skills-based approach

Meanwhile, LinkedIn’s Regional General Counsel and Head of Public Policy for APAC Dave Woodward said it is critical for businesses to adopt a skills-based approach to hiring and developing talent. “Workers must also cultivate a growth mindset and embrace lifelong learning. This is how we will continue to create opportunities for every member of the global workforce.”

A finding by Statista also said that even before the pandemic, estimates of full-time employment in the ICT sector worldwide reached 55.3 million in 2020, that there is a growing demand for IT professionals, and that IT executives are among the highest paid in the global economy.

“Meanwhile, the challenge for MSMEs is to combine their people’s business and entrepreneurial skills with digital skills which would allow them to make better use of technology,” Oxales said.

“For the young, digital enablement will encourage them to explore opportunities to start businesses, contributing to our country’s entrepreneurial drive," he added.