By Daniel Llanto

During the entire pandemic period, the Philippines has been complimented by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) for being one of the highest “over-performers” in terms of maximized use of information technology in trade of goods and services.

This enabled Filipinos to purchase most of their daily needs online without risking infection outside their homes.

UNCTAD said the Philippines was one of the most successful at seizing opportunities for trade in digitally information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled (or digitally delivered) goods and services.

“The country is making significant strides in capturing value in e-commerce,” said Director Shamika Sirimanne of UNCTAD Division of Technology and Logistics.

At the web-streamed opening ceremony of the National Science and Technology Week, Sirimanne said maximized use of these technologies demonstrates great potential for the Philippines to achieve its development goals despite the temporary setbacks dealt by the pandemic.

The UNCTAD official said the Philippine status “can be attributed to the fact that it has a high ranking for industry.”

As a result, Sirimanne noted, “multi-national enterprises are attracted by the country’s strong supply chains and solid base of parts manufacturing. The Philippines also has pro-business policies along with a skilled, well-educated and English-speaking workforce and a network of economic zones.”

In 2017, the share of online-transacted goods in total merchandise exports was around 40 percent, while the share of online services in total exports of services was over 15 percent, she said.  “Now, the country is making much more significant strides in capturing value in e-commerce,” Sirimanne added.

Sirimanne disclosed that accommodation and food services, which were the second largest source of e-commerce revenues in the Philippines, were also connected to travel-related activities and food ordering.

Sirimanne’s information was culled from her office’s forthcoming publication — Technology and Innovation Report 2020 — that has developed a country readiness index.  It considers technological capabilities related to physical investment, human capital and technological effort and covers national capabilities to use, adopt and adapt these technologies.

The UNCTAD official said the over-arching challenge for other developing countries to reap the benefits of frontier technologies, as much as from old technologies, is to learn to adopt, disseminate knowledge and technologies to promote sustainable development.

“Only a few countries currently create frontier technologies and, in the short run, this is unlikely to change. But all countries need to prepare for them,” she added.

Sirimanne posted two observations and challenges. First, everyone on this planet has a stake in the outcome of science, technology, and innovation efforts, “but not every country or every section of society is participating equally in defining the course of the technological race.”

“The need for an inclusive conversation about technological change and its impact on people and societies, including the ethical dimension, is stronger than ever,” she said.

Second, addressing global challenges like Covid-19 in vastly different  local contexts that require the combination of cutting-edge scientific capabilities with detailed local knowledge.

She added that regional and global science networks devoted to the development of diagnostics, therapeutic and vaccines for the Ccovid-19 pandemic can increase the capacities of developing countries to participate in global science and innovation networks.

Science Sec. Fortunato de la Peña, for his part, said Department of Science and Technology officials were challenged on how to push through with the weeklong NSTW celebration while highly considering the safety of everyone from Covid-19.

“The pandemic did not deter us to celebrate the 2020 NSTW. On the contrary, it inspired us more to think outside of the box,” he said at the opening ceremony.