Philippines Digital Economy Report 2020: A Better Normal Under COVID-19 - Digitalizing the Philippine Economy Now

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The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic underscores the importance of digitalization for economic and social resilience. COVID-19 is restricting mobility and economic activity around the world, and the Philippines is no exception. As mobility restrictions and social distancing measures limit face-to-face interactions and activities, the availability of affordable digital technologies has emerged as a key determinant of resilience. Indeed, digital technologies allow businesses, the government and schools to pursue operations online rather than completely shutting down. E-commerce and digital payments have permitted business transactions to continue and goods to be delivered; online communication platforms have facilitated home-based work, virtual meetings, and remote classes; and government agencies in many countries have used online processes to quickly deliver social assistance to vulnerable households. Unfortunately, not all countries have been able to leverage digital technologies to their full extent, because of poor access to high quality internet and long-held analog practices. In the Philippines, COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption and use of digital technologies. However, digitalization is largely constrained by the country’s low high-speed broadband penetration, which lags behind neighboring middle-income countries. The digital divide in the Philippines is large with nearly 60 percent of households not having access to internet, and unable to reap the benefits of digitalization. As a result, face-to-face interactions and analog practices largely dominate in the Philippines, making social distancing economically costly. For example, cash and cheques remain the dominant modes of payment while applying for permits and licenses typically requires exchange of documents in person. Gatherings of people waiting in lines are typical fixture for Filipinos to secure goods and services. This report provides a thorough analysis of the obstacles to digitalization and identifies key reforms and policy measures that could help the Philippines harness the potential of the digital economy. It uses the CHIP (Connect, Harness, Innovate, Protect) conceptual framework to analyze the requirements to accelerate digital transformation. The framework focuses on four key drivers of digitalization: (i) Connect, which refers to a set measures to build the digital foundation and enablers such as digital infrastructure for participation in the digital economy; (ii) Harness, which points to needed investments in analog complements such as skills, regulations, and institutions to leverage the old economy; (iii) Innovate, which refers to expanding the new economy services, digital payments, digital entrepreneurship and e-government; and (iv) Protect, which focuses on mitigating the risks in the digital economy. The need to act on the digital economy is urgent. Reforms delivered now will help the government cushion the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, support the recovery in the medium term, and make the economy more inclusive, competitive, and resilient to similar shocks in the long term.
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World Bank. 2020. Philippines Digital Economy Report 2020: A Better Normal Under COVID-19 - Digitalizing the Philippine Economy Now. © World Bank, Washington, DC. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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