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Digital is ‘new normal’ as businesses restart

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By Jenina Ibañez, Reporter

THE “new normal” for businesses after the lockdown is lifted will likely include a major shift to digital services, including digital payments and telemedicine.

Anthony Oundjian, managing director and senior partner at Boston Consulting Group, said the move to the post-quarantine norm will have two stages. The next few quarters, he said, will be the implementation of constraints to protect public health, while long-term changes will be structural.

“In the longer term it’s a bit more unpredictable, but I do believe a set of changes will be amplified…digitalization of life in shopping, to the way we buy, to the way we interact,” he said in a BusinessWorld online forum on Wednesday.

Shailesh Baidwan, president of Voyager Innovations, Inc. and PayMaya Philippines, Inc., said digital financial services will be the new norm.

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He said that downloads for digital financial services have increased, describing a consumer shift.

Large businesses, he said, are compressing their timeline to be able to deliver goods and services through digital tools in the next two months, instead of the next two years. For small businesses, digital is either a means for survival or further opportunity.

“Using access to Facebook, Viber groups [they] are actually able to use and service their communities with their products at a time like this. And they in turn are demanding digital financial services and payments,” he said.

He said PayMaya is working with the government as it tries to disperse funds to vulnerable communities as well as collect funds like taxes and fees through digital means.

“We need to accelerate financial inclusion in the country to help cushion the negative impacts in the coming months,” he said.

Philippine Genome Center Deputy Executive Director Raul V. Destura said the importance of the healthcare system has been emphasized during the pandemic.

“For the healthcare sector, the new normal will probably be the resurgence of telemedicine. Because of problems of social distancing, the need for digital technology as a tool for healthcare delivery is something that needs to be worked on,” he said.

University of Canberra Associate Professor Nicole Curato said that the pandemic exacerbates existing inequalities among Filipinos.

“The new normal will be extractive of our time, our health, our productivity, and our relationships…the poor will bear the brunt,” she said.

She said she would like to see businesses who have the ability to do so to shift from philanthropy to offering living wages to their employees.

“We’ve been celebrating a lot of businesses because of their good charitable work because of the pandemic. Fantastic. But I think the even bigger issue here is why are we even having to get to the point of talking about charity if we can give our employees excellent healthcare, excellent insurance and excellent support that is built in their working contracts?” she said.

“I know not all companies can afford this. But for the companies that can, I hope this pandemic will be an opportunity to reassess what kinds of rights they give to their workers so if something like a pandemic happens again, we don’t have to rely on charity. There is justice and dignity in good labor,” she added.

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