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Global concerns taking toll on PH digital competitiveness – PLDT executive

MANILA, Philippines – PLDT chief revenue officer Eric Alberto doesn't completely agree with the findings of a recent study that said that the Philippines sharply declined in terms of digital competitiveness.

Alberto, speaking at a press conference for the company's annual Philippine Digital Convention on Thursday, June 21, asserted that the country is in better shape than what the study may seem to indicate. He cited that the Philippines remains the preferred destination for outsourcing in the world, an industry that heavily relies on solid communications technology infrastructures, and that the country's internet speed has been on the up and up. 

Alberto counters the assertions of the study, the International Institute for Management Development's 2018 World Digital Competitiveness Ranking, which identified poor internet speeds as one of the factors contributing to the country's drop in the rankings.

"Independent third-party telco network analytic companies like Ookla and OpenSignal indicate that for the last 3 years, up to last [most recent] quarter, the Philippines has shown the best-improved network broadband speeds recorded globally. Our speed may not be the best in the world, but certainly, it is also not the slowest, as per the latest OpenSignal reports. We are competitive with first-world countries already with the massive roll-out of LTE not only by ourselves but also by our competitors," Alberto said.

The executive also mentioned the company's capital expenditures for 2018, declared at an expected P58 billion, said to be a record. 

Alberto also asserted that data rates in the Philippines are some of the lowest in the world, citing how much higher the price of 1 gigabyte of data in Japan and some European countries are, compared to the Philippines. He said that in those countries, a gigabyte of data could cost as much as $10 while in the Philippines, it could be less than a dollar. 

Alberto then presented his take on what could've precipitated the country's decline in the rankings – which, to be fair to telecommunications companies, is judged by a host of factors other than technological infrastructure and internet speeds, including government regulations, business environment, education system, banks, and societal attitudes to name a few. 

What may have been a major factor negatively affecting the country's rank is that the whole world is experiencing a flight-to-quality phenomenon, in which global investors sell high-risk investments, such as those in emerging markets, and purchase safer investments, such as those in more stable countries.

"External concerns, trade wars, economic uncertainties – the first to be hit by these [business-wise] are the emerging markets. In a world that's moving into a regime of uncertainty and ambiguity, the investment flow moves to the more established countries – and conversely, the emerging markets would be affected," Alberto said.

The Philippines dropped 10 spots in the 2018 World Digital Competitiveness Ranking, the biggest decline in 6 years.

Digital convention

The 2018 Philippine Digital Convention, happening from June 21 to 22 at the Marriott Grand Ballroom, is PLDT Enterprise's premier annual showcase of transformative enterprise technologies meant to aid businesses big and small in their digital transformations.

At the event, PLDT Enterprise also announced their roll-out of software-defined wide-area network technology (SD-WAN), their next-generation platform for managed data services, designed to offer better network agility and security.

"Local enterprises are always looking for ways to easily scale their business requirements up or down, and this will allow them to do in real-time, making for simpler, more efficient management of resources," said Jovy Hernandez, head of PLDT and Smart's enterprise business groups. –

Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.