Opinion

AS IT MOVES towards a new economic frontier, the Philippines is accelerating its digital transformation and promoting digital readiness guided by its national initiatives. Driven by efforts — especially those helmed by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) — the country is ramping up digital adoption and connectivity to tap into a P5-trillion opportunity and transition the country to the next industrial age.

The Philippines was one of the earliest Southeast Asian nations to take a lead in 5G deployment. Alongside bringing the country to the next era of connectivity, it also quickly responded to the increasing digital demands exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic with a government policy urging the use of cloud technology.

Through these efforts, the Philippines is taking the right steps to boost more inclusive digital transformation. However, inclusivity is just one part of ensuring better digital transformation opportunities and benefits in the long term. Greater demand for digital services will result in increased demand for data, and the data centers to manage them, and the resultant energy demand from this will pressure the surrounding environment.

As it accelerates its digital plans in the 5G era, the Philippines must ensure that its digital transformation infrastructure is managed sustainably. The key to this is harnessing edge computing, which can optimize data management to be more efficient even as data demands multiply.   

ENABLING SUSTAINABLE DIGITAL ADVANCEMENTS WITH EDGE INTELLIGENCE
With more modern networks utilizing 5G, there is a greater need in managing rapid increases in data transfer network capacity requirements. This is especially for providing low latency services and capacity increases more sustainably.

There has also been unusually high growth in data creation and replication globally. This trend will continue over the next few years, requiring more energy consumption to manage and transport data at a rate similar to the annual production of 50 nuclear power plants.

This is why edge computing and edge intelligence will be essential components in the Philippines’ 5G networks and related applications. They will enable the development of more sustainable digital infrastructure, as they can improve workload optimization, which would then significantly reduce energy consumption related to data transport.

Essentially, edge computing refers to the practice of shifting portions of computation away from centralized servers and bringing them closer to where data is being created. The processing and analysis of raw data are done at the edge, while findings such as real-time insights, predictions or other types of actionable intelligence are sent to the data center.

Therefore, modern edge capabilities help make data management more sustainable, underpinned by minimizing latency and reducing backhaul traffic volumes and costs. For example, edge intelligence can contribute to data usage optimization and reduce the amount of data needed to traverse the network, thereby lowering energy consumption and resultant carbon emissions. To illustrate, optimization of workloads will significantly reduce energy consumption related to data transport and decrease the need for physical transport, hence reducing CO2 output.

Applications powered by new edge capabilities can also meet user needs more capably through more sustainable use of environmental resources. This further reduces energy consumption and carbon emissions. Predictions performed by edge intelligence algorithms show that data and computation can be brought closer to the sites where green energy is available, which will help optimize green energy usage.

HOW MODERN PHILIPPINE CSPS SHOULD HARNESS EDGE SYSTEMS
To respond to the growing sustainability challenge posed by digital transformation, communications service providers (CSPs) in the Philippines should leverage edge systems that adopt the following best practices:

• Sustainability and competitiveness

Edge computing can dramatically improve energy efficiency, data security, and privacy in digital infrastructures. With cloud technology already transforming the Philippines’ socioeconomic landscape, CSPs can access greater flexibility, lower overall costs and high service availability to meet growing demands on networks, sustainability, new applications and data by people and enterprises. It will also multiply economic activities by opening significant business opportunities for new edge application developers.

• Network scalability and operability

Edge computing enables massively distributed, automated, cloud-native and secured basis across diverse locations. This is especially game changing for countries with challenging archipelagic geographies such as the Philippines, where some of the country’s leading CSPs are currently working on the improvement. This improved connectivity then provides a platform to make latency-sensitive applications and digital services sustainable and energy-efficient as their use is scaled-up nationwide, whether they are for banks, enterprises, manufacturers, security/surveillance companies, ports, or more. This is evidenced by CSP operators currently working out partnerships to provide customers with network resiliency and manage end-to-end demands.

• Solution focus

With increasing co-innovation and co-development between CSPs and network technology companies in the Philippines, it is essential to create edge-based solutions that enable sustainable and automated data transfer across future digital infrastructure for consumers and enterprises across industries.

SUSTAINING THE PHILIPPINES’ 5G FUTURE WITH EDGE SYSTEMS
As it is already in the 5G era, the Philippines will play a significant role in Southeast Asia’s digital advancement. With greater anticipated regional market influence, the nation must ensure that its digital transformation infrastructure and networks are managed sustainably. This will also be instrumental to the country’s transition toward an innovation-based, high-income nation.

There is already strong growth in the Philippines’ hyperscale data center market. Currently, domestic consumers (both general and enterprise) are tapping into enhanced connectivity for applications such as entertainment (including video streaming and mobile gaming), retail and security (i.e., sophisticated cameras for enhanced surveillance).

CSPs are starting to realize this potential through agreements to bring low latency experiences with faster download speed. This makes them, and the country they are based in, poised to drive a new generation of intuitive applications that will run on a distributed architecture along with several components — but all finding their place at the network edge. Adopting edge systems can hence catalyze the unlocking of new digital opportunities and revenue streams, while also scaling digital transformation more sustainably.