The Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) released its latest book, "Critical Issues in the Philippine Digital Economy", which offers valuable insights into the country's digital economic landscape.

PIDS Senior Research Fellows and book editors Connie Dacuycuy and Ramonette Serafica highlighted key themes and observations from each chapter, shedding light on the state of the Philippine digital economy.

The book was copublished with the Canada-based International Development Research Centre. It was launched on June 22 as part of the National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Month celebration.

Dacuycuy said that while the digital economy has brought abundant social and financial prospects, its critical issues and challenges must be addressed. "In terms of digital performance indicators, including digital transformation, trade, connectivity, and innovation, the Philippines lags behind its ASEAN counterparts,” she said.

Gaps in service providers, costly ICT services, and limited security hinder the country's progress in digital transformation, while socioeconomic and digital spatial divides limit people’s access and participation in the digital economy.

“Those who can invest in ICT skills are drawn to migrate to developed cities, leaving the less abled and less connected parts of the country. The lesson here is clear: people need to be on the right side of the divide to fully harness the benefits of the digital economy," she said.

Serafica presented recommendations from each chapter to address these challenges.

"To strengthen the foundations of the digital economy, the government must continue policy and regulatory reforms, invest in internet connectivity outside urban centers, and provide venture capital support for startups," she said.

The editors noted that stakeholders need greater awareness of the government’s efforts for digitalization, and more information campaigns can boost confidence in digital transactions.

Webinar discussant Emmy Lou Delfin, a director at the Department of Information and Communications Technology, echoed the need to promote digitalization efforts. “There are a lot of ongoing initiatives that the government and the private sector are offering.  However, their success and influence boil down to how vigorous we are in advocating and promoting such interventions,” she said.

Fellow discussant and FinTech Alliance PH Chairperson Lito Villanueva concurred that promoting digital financial programs and products needs to improve. "Access to information mitigates vulnerabilities to shocks. This way, Filipinos can be more informed and aware before making any business decisions to help them achieve financial empowerment," he said.

Mary Grace Riguer-Teodosio, Institute for Labor Studies Deputy Executive Director, said the Department of Labor and Employment is working to improve labor market information to address the risks faced by workers in the digital economy. They aim to enhance access to information between employers and workers, bridging gaps and mismatches in the labor market.

Serafica added that human capital deficits, a crucial issue, can be addressed by updating the curriculum, promoting women's participation in e-commerce, and enhancing skills across digital industries.

Other recommendations from the book include improving expertise in cybersecurity through capacity building, removing barriers to entry and growth of digital platforms, and providing funding and technical assistance to local governments for smart city development initiatives.

Serafica concluded that addressing the identified issues and establishing a strong foundation can unlock the full potential of the Philippines’ digital economy, bridge socioeconomic divides, and make the country a competitive player in the global digital landscape.

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