Businesses, government must embrace digital technology to stay relevant

To develop and expand, Myanmar must embrace and keep up with the pace at digital technology is changing the economy and the way companies do business around the world, tech experts at the Digital Transformation Summit said.

The summit was jointly held by the Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industries (UMFCCI) and US Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Council on November 8 in Yangon.

It was attended by executives from some of the world’s largest Internet and tech firms, including Google, Microsoft, Visa, VM Ware and Oracle, who all stressed the importance of adopting digital technologies such as e-commerce platforms and social media among local businesses.

“According to a global survey estimate, 40 percent of businesses will not survive if they do not evolve and adopt digital technology to keep up with disruptive competitors.

“For example, the taxi business has been overtaken by ride-hailing apps built on technology, such as Uber and Grab,” said U Sy Wann, country representative of Cisco Systems in Myanmar.

Other industries, such as retail and tourism, have also been disrupted by a new breed of competitors, many of which are tech-savvy and asset-light.

Going digital

Local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are aware of the need to go digital. In fact, many have already done so.

“If we observe the majority of business advertisements, we can see that they have migrated to social media sites like Facebook. But it’s also important for business along the supply chain which provide related services to hop on board the tech bandwagon as well,” said U Moe Kyaw, vice chair of UMFCCI.

For some of these businesses though, switching to a digital system is commonly seen as a big and difficult obstacle. Take the financial services sector, for example.

“In Myanmar, paying in cash is preferred to paying via digital means like bank transfers and credit cards,” said Arturo Planell, country manager of Visa for Myanmar.

“But if the digital payments system is used, it will bring a lot of advantages and help businesses save costs and expand. Today, almost everyone is using a mobile phone.

“If this level of mobile phone penetration can be leveraged on to promote digital payments, there will be rapid and massive developments in the economy over a short period of time,” Mr Planell added.

Tan Bin Ru, SEA director at Microsoft, agreed. She pointed out that digital technologies will enable companies to easily perform tasks such as data-mining to keep track of customer behaviour and spending trends.

“Data is the new business currency. Sound business data is essential in transitioning to a digital system and affordable methods are available for it,” she said.

Ms Tan warned though, that proper cyber security and privacy software should also be implemented to safeguard customer data and prevent fraud.

Perception change

To facilitate the wider transition to digital platforms across the country, the peoples’ perception of technology must change, said U Thaung Tin, UMFCCI vice chair.

“Within the country, people still view digital systems with suspicion. They think that the expense will be high and the process, complicated. It’s true that for some big multi-national firms, complicated and expensive software must be deployed. But,for small businesses, with just a mobile phone or laptop, there are many tasks that can be completed in a more productive and cost-effective way. It’s time to start moving in this direction,” U Thaung Tin said.

But the government must also do their part to facilitate the economy’s transition to technology. For starters, appropriate cyber security laws must be implemented and official licenses issued to companies that are qualified to operate in this space.

“The transition to digital systems must be supported with concrete laws and regulations. This is the government’s role in assisting local businesses. The next thing is to provide the necessary infrastructure to facilitate a digital economy,” Mr Planell explained.

In fact, the government itself must adopt more tech-savvy systems to become more effective.

“The government bodies of most countries can levy taxes on businesses more accurately by doing so digitally. Digital systems and tools are more effective than the traditional manual system,” he went on.

Government officials are aware of the need to innovate and grow using technology.

“It’s extremely important to utilise digital systems in this day and age. The whole government need to run on electronic systems.

“Soon, the Yangon Region government will be able to provide digital services to the people,” U Zaw Aye Maung, Yangon Region Minister for Rakhine Ethnic Affairs, said.

Source: Myanmar Times

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