By Rexy Josh Dorado, co-author of Ready or Not


We surveyed 300 people from Manila about their thoughts on the future of industries. Guess where people want to see the most improvement?

Ready or Not is an exploration of the future of business and society in the Philippines. That vision is woven together from multiple influences — from Winston’s work as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist in the US and the Philippines, from stacks of books on business and technology, and most importantly, from the voices of everyday Filipinos.

In the process of writing Ready or Not, we did a comparative survey of 300 people in Metro Manila and 300 people in the United States to gauge expectations around technological change over the next 10 years.

The first insight was that the everyday Manileño is savvier about digital disruption than you might think. On average, our respondents from the Metro Manila were more aware of rapid technological change, more eager to learn about technology, and though far from confident, felt more prepared than the average American for the changes ahead.

We also managed to get some insight on how people saw specific industries changing between now and 2025. Here’s what that looks like:

This graph shows, from a scale of 1 to 7, respondents’ evaluation on how technologically advanced each industry was in 2016 (the dotted lines), plotted against their expectations on how technologically advanced each industry should be by 2025 (the solid lines).

Pretty cool, right? Now what does it tell us? Let’s start with an easy one: Which industry do Metro Manila residents believe need to change most between now and 2025? Where is the biggest gap between the dotted and solid lines?

The Digital Highway

You probably could have guessed the answer before even looking at the data: transportation showed the highest need for improvement in terms of technological sophistication. We can make an educated guess and say that this likely has something to do with Manila’s famous traffic problem, which can turn a 15-minute drive with no traffic into a 3-hour preview of hell during rush hour.

Luckily, expectations of change taking place by 2025 aren’t unfounded either. This past year saw record investments in self-driving vehicles, which has translated to a series of breakthroughs and milestones: Google’s self-driving car program clocked in 2 million miles as of October 2016; Tesla’s autopilot mode made its way into consumer vehicles and passed a federal investigation after its first recorded accident; Uber began testing self-driving vehicles in Arizona and is applying for a permit to test the technology in California.

While these aren’t silver bullets, the mainstreaming of self-driving cars could prove to be a game-changer when it comes to traffic. As we discussed in Ready or Not, most traffic time isn’t directly caused by the number of cars on the road, but rather by things like merging between lanes, which sets off a chain of reaction where thousands of human drivers stop, start, stop again, adjust their following distance, and so on — guesswork, essentially, which a fleet of fully coordinated self-driving cars would be able to bypass. Beyond cutting down traffic time, self-driving cars have also been shown to minimize accidents.

Of course, real change will only happen with strong public transportation and smart urban planning. Here, progress is coming within reach as well. Elon Musk’s plans for a high-speed hyperloop transportation system are getting closer to implementation, and he has famously declared an interest in developing better technology for tunnels to improve traffic flows. Uber recently began sharing anonymized data on users’ routes and traffic times, which urban planners can use to inform where, for example, to build new roads.

Next Exit

This is only the tip of the iceberg as the Internet of Things takes hold. Imagine connecting not only urban plans, but traffic light patterns and emergency routes synced to additional open data from telcos about how people move throughout the day. And wilder visions are fast becoming real; in a video interview, Winston discussed how drones, which have become mainstream over the past few years, lay the groundwork for the emergence of actual flying cars over the next decade.

All of this promises to unfold over the next 10 years within just one of many sectors of the economy. A quick second glance at the radar chart offers other hints at the future ahead: Healthcare and telecommunications follow as the industries second and third in need of technological improvements, signaling both the promise of curative technologies and the toll of bad Internet on everyone. Media was seen as the most advanced industry today — which may come as a surprise if you look only at the struggling giants, but makes much more sense when you consider the landscape of citizen journalism (real and fake) that has bubbled up and transformed the world in the past year alone.

The future of industry in the Philippines, it seems, feels vast, distant, difficult, and yet more real than ever before. It’s here, taking place in small ripples that build up into giant waves with greater frequency. The question is no longer if it will happen, but how Filipinos in Metro Manila and beyond will set disruption into motion and intentionally shape what comes next.