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Changing lives

THE Philippines can look forward to better and faster access to information and enhanced business processes as new technological trends and innovations, including improved connectivity, artificial intelligence and data analytics, unfold.

The latest industrial revolution sweeping the world will also change the lifestyle of Filipinos and the way businesses and local governments are run, experts said.

Christopher Monterola, head of the Asian Institute of Management’s Aboitiz School of Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship, believes the entry of more telecommunications providers will lead to improved connectivity, easier access to data and cheaper internet services.

For Monterola, healthier competition will lead to faster and more affordable wi-fi services, allowing more Filipinos to connect online. This could open up possibilities such as easier access to information for entrepreneurial opportunities, mobile applications and smart cities.

“I feel that if properly regulated by the government — hopefully by 2020 — we would have a healthier telco competition with the third and fourth player becoming relevant immediately, together with other independent broadband providers,” Monterola said. With this scenario, the cost of internet service at 3 megabits per second (Mbps) to 5 Mbps could be reduced from an average of P1,000 to P100 per month if the government strongly pushes for it, he added.

“I think this is a game changer and can induce equality. Since information is money and power, it will allow everyone to understand what are the trends, what are the opportunities,” Monterola said. With the “democratization of information,” more people will be able to access the internet, and innovation will not be limited to a few.

Randy Roberts, operations head of market research company IDC Philippines, said improved connectivity could help the economy grow. It is essential for the public to gain access to products and services online, he noted, because 65 percent of the economy is projected to be digital by 2022. Those without access to the internet will be left out.

“In order for a country to grow in the digital world, they have to be connected just for information, for news, to get to government services, to get to healthcare, to get to banking, to buy products. It helps them, it helps the economy grow,” Roberts said.

Experts also pointed out that the entry of fifth generation cellular network technology (5G) would be key to increased connectivity. 5G is 10 times faster in speed, 10 times quicker in sending messages and information and has 10 times the capacity in accommodating multiple devices.

Digital transformation in businesses
Digital transformation is essential for businesses to thrive, with Roberts stressing that companies should keep up with digitalization of products and services. IDC studies in the past five years show 10 to 20 percent revenue growth for digitized companies across industries, compared to flat or declining revenues for those that bucked the trend. Profitability for digitized companies has also gone up by 20 to 40 percent, Roberts said.

“Clearly now, it’s an imperative that if you want to survive, almost regardless of the industry, you must go to a digital transformation of the business,” Roberts continued, explaining that consumers now prefer more convenient, efficient, paperless transactions that can be accessed online or from a smartphone.

Banking transactions that can be accessed through mobile applications, he pointed out, have gained popularity because customers no longer have to go to the bank and queue.

Cloud Phase 2
Cloud technology is also seen as one of the primary drivers for digital transformation, allowing companies to explore more innovation in enhancing the capabilities of their core systems. IBM Philippines Chief Technology Officer Lope Doromal said companies were now more confident in utilizing cloud technology and in trying out more aggressive changes in their essential functions.

“Now that the companies have tried out the cloud, they understand it better. We’re seeing now that they are more comfortable in terms of adapting cloud [technology] with their more traditional applications,” Doromal said.

He added that big companies now had the edge in creating new applications and exploring possibilities given increased confidence in cloud technology, which is more practical and more cost-efficient compared to installing physical infrastructure and data systems.

Artificial Intelligence and data analytics
The incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) in businesses, meanwhile, is seen to gain more prominence. Experts explained that the massive amounts of data collected from various sources globally need to be analyzed and configured to produce capability for software, programs and machines to make processes and services more productive and efficient.

Monterola said adopting AI and data analytics would be the trend in the coming year. “Companies will be forced to have a strong analytics initiative or team. Companies that are in denial with AI in the coming of Industry 4.0 in 2020, I expect, will suffer considerably in 2021,” he added.

Roberts, meanwhile, said AI was geared towards augmenting capabilities with its ability to take on repetitive and menial tasks. A prominent example would be customer service tasks at call centers, where AI could take calls or an online “chatbot” handle simple transactions such as balance inquiries. This, according to Roberts and Doromal, could benefit both customers and companies via more efficient transactions and productivity, leaving human agents to handle more complex tasks.

AI can also be beneficial for other sectors. Manufacturing processes could be improved. Even agriculture could benefit from increased mechanization and better crop monitoring.

Augmenting capabilities and upskilling
While there is fear that AI could replace workers, experts are optimistic that it will mean enhanced capabilities in the workplace and upskilling of the workforce. With AI taking over repetitive tasks, the workforce, to remain relevant, will need continuous retraining and learning.

Information technology and data analytics have seen new and growing demand. Among the jobs and skills that are seen to grow are in data science and analytics and cybersecurity. Since there is inadequate supply, experts cited the need for closer ties and collaboration among companies, the government and the academe to fill the gap. In this regard, IBM has partnered with schools to help train students, Doromal said. AIM’s data science graduates, meanwhile, have started to share their learning in their communities, Monterola said.

Skills in demand are not only confined to the technical aspect. Creativity and analytical skills, Roberts underscored, can also be developed in the arts and humanities.

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See more at: The Manila Times

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