Take an active role in shaping ‘better normal’ — JAZA

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by Patricia B. Mirasol

Healthcare, education, and financial services are industries experiencing mass disruption due to COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), said Ayala Corp. (AC) Chair and Chief Executive Officer Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, who advised taking an active role in shaping the new normal to make it better and more resilient.

“Our lives aren’t merely about anticipating and adjusting,” he said, on the second day of the National Academy of Science and Technology’s 42nd Annual Scientific Meeting. “Let’s take a more active role in shaping the new normal. Let’s not just play defensively.” 


Mr. Zobel discussed how COVID-19 has surfaced both gaps and opportunities in specific industries. Below are excerpts from his talk.

On healthcare 

According to Mr. Zobel, there was an increase in the interest and usage of telemedicine during the quarantine period. HealthNow, a free web-based teleconsultation platform under AC’s healthcare unit, registered 11,000 patient consultation requests during its pilot phase between April to June. “The shift to alternative healthcare delivery models will persist even after the pandemic has ended,” Mr. Zobel said. 

On education

Mr. Zobel observed that teachers and students are pivoting to distance learning “with varied levels of success.” Online education, he added, has several desirable features: convenience and flexibility; access to rich content micro-credentials; and learning analytics and customized instruction. “Admittedly, there are growing pains and infrastructure challenges; these will be steadily overcome,” he said.

On financial services

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has been encouraging fintechs and traditional banks to innovate. “Digital finance has immense potential to improve the reach and speed of financial services,” said Mr. Zobel, who added that that digital finance can drive financial inclusion, particularly for the 66% of Filipinos who remain unbanked.


The new normal is a unique opportunity to solve even greater challenges, said Mr. Zobel, who added that “building a better and more resilient normal” requires two critical components: a deeper and more holistic understanding of stakeholders, and tighter science-industry-government partnerships.

“Generating deep stakeholder insight requires an integrative approach to understanding their pain points,” he said. “This crisis has created a new environment. I say embrace it. Strengthen the link to science-industry-government partnerships and use science to create a new set of paradigms for doing things.” 

The continuing scourge of public transport was given as an example in the talk for how the country could come together in reimagining mobility and using technology to create a safe, convenient, and affordable riding experience.

According to the Ayala Corp. Chair, a crisis always exacerbates existing problems and surfaces new challenges—and innovation always emerges after every crisis. “We can do more than just forecast and adapt,” Mr. Zobel said. “We all have a role to play.”