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Digital, food, green energy

I was in Singapore for the Singapore Fintech Festival, Nov. 14-17, 2023. Just like my recent visit to the headquarters of a couple of Chinese tech companies in Shenzhen, China, one hour by bus from Hong Kong, I was disappointed after spending two days at the Singapore Fintech.

The world is leaving us behind in digitalization in general and in fintech in particular.

The future of the Philippines will be anchored on three factors: one, information technology and digitalization; two, food sufficiency and three, green energy. Sadly, in the ASEAN, the Philippines is a laggard on all three fronts.

Our fixed broadband penetration is only 33 percent of total households of 24 million. That means more than 16 Filipino homes have no internet, disconnected from the world at large.

In contrast, China has fixed broadband penetration of 113 percent, Vietnam 76, Thailand 58, Mongolia 52 and Malaysia 50 percent. This is the latest World Bank data. In broadband quality, the Philippines has among the poorest – 92 percent, lower than Thailand’s 211 median download speed (Mbps), China’s 194, Malaysia’s 96 and Vietnam’s 94.

In terms of cost, measured as a percent of their gross national income per capita, Filipinos pay exorbitant prices. The Philippine GNI per capita is P3,891, current prices. Filipinos pay 11.6 percent of that or P451.35 in broadband cost.

The Chinese pay their internet service, the equivalent of just 0.5 percent of their per capita income; Mongolian 1.9, the Thais and Vietnamese 3.5, Malaysians 2.3 and Indonesians 7.6 percent.

In the same World Bank October 2023 study, for every 100 Filipinos, there are 62 mobile broadband subscribers. The 62/100 mobile broadband ratio pales in comparison with the 125 in Malaysia, 116 in Mongolia, 115 in Indonesia, 112 in Thailand, 102 in China and 88 in Vietnam.

The quality of Filipinos’ mobile broadband is also below average, just 26 median download speed (Mbps), compared with 95 in China, 49 Malaysia, 48 Vietnam and 41 in Thailand.

Philippine mobile broadband cost is also oppressive – 2 percent of per capita gross national income (GNI). That is 4x the cost in China and Vietnam, 1.4x Thailand’s, 2x Malaysia’s and 2.2x