Interview: Andrés Ortola
How can fast-growing economies in South-east Asia benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)?
ANDRÉS ORTOLA: Despite lacking the investment or innovation capabilities of advanced economies, fast-growing economies like the Philippines are rich in local talent. Technology talent is a particular strength for the country, across all fields and industries. With the right support from the government, this skilled workforce will be instrumental in ensuring that our potential for digital transformation is properly realised. In addition to an impressive local talent pool, it is important for emerging economies to invest in transformative technology to secure long-term success. Investment in the right infrastructure, training and tools is vital in order to achieve progress and truly capitalise on the 4IR.
To what extent are Philippine corporations embracing digital transformation, and what are the main challenges that local businesses face?
ORTOLA: According to the Microsoft Asia Digital Transformation Study, 93% of organisations in the Philippines are in the process of digital transformation and by 2021 around 40% of the country’s GDP will be derived from products and services created directly through the use of digital technologies. These include cloud computing, internet of things and artificial intelligence (AI). However, businesses have faced challenges in adopting digital solutions, such as difficulties employing a traditional leadership strategy; limited digital skills and resources; a lack of continuous learning programmes; and a shortage of advanced analytics. Although the domestic market is becoming more open to digital transformation, it is still in its infancy in terms of integrating technology systems and developing the workforce.
What steps can be taken to improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Philippines?
ORTOLA: Despite slipping to 124th in the World Bank’s 2019 Ease of Doing Business Index, the passing of the Ease of Doing Business Act in 2018 had a positive impact. However, it is important for both the public and private sectors to work together to encourage a more accommodating entrepreneurial ecosystem. As the government seeks to further improve the business environment, private sector support is essential. Open communication and sharing feedback will help the public sector to improve its processes, while the private sector needs to champion a collaborative and nurturing industry that encourages entrepreneurs.
In which ways can industrial firms capitalise on AI to increase productivity and cost-efficiency?
ORTOLA: Companies must be able to train and upskill their employees to ensure they are ready when the organisation has fully implemented its AI initiatives. Business leaders must strike a balance between the rate of tech adoption and tech capability in the organisation. By providing employees with the training to acquire the right skills to integrate AI into the workplace, we can expect a more productive workforce in the future.
Why is it increasingly important that companies are able to safeguard against cyberattacks?
ORTOLA: “Understanding the Cybersecurity Landscape in Asia Pacific”, a report commissioned by Microsoft, revealed that the potential economic loss due to cybersecurity breaches could be up to $1.7trn – more than 7% of the region’s total GDP of $24.3trn. Therefore, ensuring security, privacy and compliance with regulations is a vital part of the digital transformation process. If they do not protect themselves against risks, companies may experience substantial financial loss, decreased customer satisfaction and damage to market reputation, as demonstrated by recent high-profile breaches. As a result, key players in both IT and business must prioritise securing corporate data and managing risk while taking advantage of the opportunities presented by this fast-moving, digitally driven market.
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