How Metro Manila Sees the Future of Industries

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.

Digital Transformation Is for Everyone

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

For me, Ready or Not began over breakfast in Manila: Winston Damarillo, Micaela Beltran, and me, three balikbayan entrepreneurs who were seeing stirrings of the future take place in the many corners of the world we called home.

This was early 2016: a few months before social media catalyzed a string of political upheavals in the Philippines and the United States; a few days before Google’s AI beat Go champion Lee Seedol in the most complex and intuition-driven board game built by man. Winston had just gotten back from Davos, where the World Economic Forum community had discussed the idea of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a tech-driven transformation that was about to change the society and industry.

A born geek, Winston came out of the conference one part effusive and one part frustrated by the gap between idealistic ideas discussed in WEF and sobering realities in the Philippines.  The question on the table: How could our country not only be a part of the conversation, not only keep pace, but also take the opportunity to lead?

A digital paradigm shift

Our team got to work soon after. Before long, it became clear that making “digital disruption” accessible wasn’t just a question of translating between geographical contexts — it was also about bridging the gap between disciplines, sectors, and backgrounds.

Winston, a veteran entrepreneur who sold past companies to giants like IBM, was now focused on transforming the ASEAN’s largest companies into digitally-enabled industries. For his clients, the past few years were a rude awakening to the disruptive force of digital. Long distance calling could no longer make money, people no longer sent remittances through banks, and the new manta was “adapt or perish.”  The question is no longer why tech is so important. Rather, it’s what to do now that it is?

On my side — the nonprofit and social impact sphere — conversations on tech were still far from the mainstream. And yet, I knew that digital played a vital and invisible role in making my organization, Kaya Collaborative, what it is today. Digital allowed us to bring together remote communities of Filipino leaders from around the world, to connect with different initiatives taking root back in the Philippines. For us, a group of millennials, these weren’t conscious strategic decisions so much as they were natural ways of doing things. But what if we went beyond? What if we learned and leaned in to digital and all the ways it could power our movement?

Ready or Not taught me that the tide has shifted, and small ventures with niche audiences like ours could use digital to not only stay in the race, but surge ahead.

Digital transformation for the underfunded NGO

I launched Kaya Collaborative in 2013. Our mission: to connect emerging leaders from the global Filipino diaspora to advocates and innovators in the Philippines.

We’ve always had to do much more with much less. For the past 3.5 years, we’ve brought more and more Filipinos back home despite being chronically underfunded and 99% volunteer-driven. Social media played a role in that from the beginning, but after Ready or Not, I knew it needed to be central. Our fourth Fellowship — a significantly expanded version of our summer program – needed to be a truly digital-enabled campaign.

We created audiences on Facebook based on interests in Filipino food and culture, then targeted content to those audiences inviting them to learn more. We produced short, compelling videos that amplified the stories of our Fellowship, then mobilized people to tag their friends and networks on those pieces of content. We used those campaigns to bring people onto our mailing list, and kept them engaged not only through emails, but also through SMS reminders straight to their phone. We scoured LinkedIn for young global Filipino talent with entrepreneurial potential and strong ties to home, and invited them personally to join our mission.

At the end, we were able to increase our applicant base 5x and reach a quarter million people through our content — all for about $200.

We’re only beginners. Others have done even more with even less. And yet, corporations continue to spend billions on billboard and print ads, while smaller companies still feel like they can’t compete at the same level.

Digital goes beyond “tech”

Digital disruption isn’t just relevant to legacy companies and people in the tech space. Technology is disrupting the world we live in, rewriting the rules of the markets and ecosystems we’re a part of — and it will affect every one of us whether we’re ready for it or not.

This means that all of us — large enterprises, nonprofits, local businesses, and individual creators — need to think about how to adapt.

It’s not easy. Nor is it the responsibility of every individual. Our institutions and governments must step up and take leadership in the midst of the changes ahead. The price of complacency is high. Robots and AI are already making a dent on the workforce, eliminating professions we once equated with security and stature, like law and medicine.

Besides the dangers of complacency, we risk missing the opportunities that digital provides, allowing us to become the most effective, creative, and unique versions of ourselves.  Artists everywhere are harnessing new platforms to turn their passions into livelihoods for the first time. Small business owners are looking online to expand their markets. Organizers are using an online arsenal to speak truth to power and galvanize movements.

Technology is a bit like the Force. There is a dark side and a light side. While the digital age has created new platforms for violent insurgencies and dark populism to spread, it offers the same tools for ours on the other end — the problem solvers, the community builders, and the makers of culture — to take arms. We offer Ready or Not as our contribution to that learning process, and we hope you’re open to joining our conversation.