MANILA, Philippines — This time last year, few outside the tech adept and well-traveled circles in the Philippines had ever heard of GrabCar or Uber.
By year’s end however, both firms had sparked numerous public debates that culminated in the Philippines becoming the first country to officially legalize crowd sourced transportation under a new category.
The sudden burst to prominence of new digital platforms like these show how technology trends affect the world. But this was, in fact, part of a larger trend of developing the required technology and fine tuning of service to match consumer demand.
The importance of identifying these tech trends has become critical not only for startups but for larger firms to guard against being disrupted. Blackberry and conventional taxi firms in Manila, among others, can attest to this.
While technology is making the world ever smaller, it is still sufficiently big enough to see the main global rivers of tech trends break out into smaller channels that affect individual countries differently.
To this end, Rappler has gathered the views of experts in the local tech community, on what they believed are poised to make waves in the tech world in 2016.
From a business standpoint
More fintech and healthcare startups. One of the big problems, and hence opportunities, that needs to be solved in the country is that 80% of Filipinos don’t have a bank account, while 40% of Filipinos have never visited a doctor in their lives.
Startups like mClinica and Medifi are making inroads in the medical space but with such a large shortage, there may be room for many more.
As for payments, gateways are an obvious entry but other sectors of the financial services industry already exist such as credit-scoring and credit-pricing; loan-matching; virtual currencies; micro-financial services.
Minette Naverette, president of Globe Telecom’s startup incubator Kickstart Ventures, said that firms in these spaces are poised to take off, given the increasingly wider economic prosperity that has not been matched by accessibility of desirable financial services.
Data + analytics. The ability to analyze data will be a key underlying factor in improving service quality, and to create new categories of services for consumers and businesses alike.
“Analytics is quickly shifting from a nice-to-have competitive advantage to a need-to-have survival tool for companies,” said Navarette. “And not all companies will be able to afford full-time dedicated teams.”
Because of this, specialized startups that provide quality service will prove to be a powerful tool in corporate and public sector armory, she added.
More VC investment and marketplace plays. Local tech heads are in agreement that big Venture Capitalists (VC) firms, which provide funding for startups, are looking for new investment opportunities in Southeast Asia. With Indonesia’s startup scene getting a bit more overheated, they will be searching for relatively undervalued markets like the Philippines.
In addition, more and more startups will move from the popular b2c business models to the collaborative economy c2c models this year.
More wearables and smart devices. These are very early days in the country for Internet of Things (IoT), or smart connected devices such as TVs or watches, but we can alreadt see specific elements of IoT taking shape, said Navarette.
Wearables, while not mainstream, have gone beyond the niche early adopter stage, and special-purpose connected metering and monitoring devices are becoming more widely available for corporate and consumer usage alike.
Tech for social impact. Undoubtedly, the biggest change the Philippines will see this year will be during the May elections. Because of this, a number of startups will find increasing relevance. These are information aggregators like Bantay.ph, or Polimetrics.net, or new media platforms.
Each of these examples is in a different state of development and market adoption will be influenced by each startup’s execution in the coming months. But these address a clear public need, said Navarette.
Advancements in digital technology will also provide effective leverage for startups focused on social development such as Rags2Riches, Sari Software Solutions, Bagosphere, Ritmo, Hapinoy, and Lenddo to amplify social impact.
Navarette explained that whilst social impact startups tend to take a while to get going, “we are seeing increasing progress in the marketplace for the services they provide, and improving viability for their operations.”
From a consumer standpoint
More alternative payments. We’re likely to see less friction for payments as startups seek to monetize, and more companies recognize the purchasing power of the emerging markets, many of whose customers do not have credit cards, said Navarette.
This simplification of payments could be in the form of new payment solutions, as well as partnerships with telecoms companies (for carrier billing, use of prepaid credits, mobile money), or new experiments in e-currencies, she explained.
The rise of new entertainment delivery systems. It is probably way too still to talk about a full scale shift from traditional TV, but with more than 50% of the population forecasted to own a smartphone by 2016, and data infrastructure serving more than 90% of the population, online streaming media is rising fast.
More affordable data plans offered as a result of intensifying competition will also likely help, said Navarette, who predicted that streaming will grow faster this year than in 2015.
Regional streaming services HOOQ and iflix both launched in the country last year, backed by Globe and Smart respectively. Streaming giant Netflix is already beginning to make inroads in the region.
New year, same batteries. The bad news for consumers is that battery usage, central to powering our digital lives, probably won’t improve much this year.
“We haven’t seen much innovation in device battery technologies in years, and given that many of the applications use a lot of video, frequent refreshes, and processing power, we will continue to need to keep charging our devices or keep bringing around higher capacity battery packs,” said Navarette. – Rappler.com
2016 laptop image from Shutterstock
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