USAID doubles down on aid for digitalization

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    The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has committed to double down over the next five years on its assistance to the Philippines in increasing digital platforms and in expanding systems on the country’s e-government initiatives and cyber security protection.

    Lawrence Hardy, USAID mission director to the Philippines, in his remarks at the Third Indo-Pacific Business Forum on Wednesday, said USAID will also provide greater engagement of small and medium sized enterprises and e-commerce, as well as continue pursuing digital interventions in our work, involving health, education, governance and the environment.

    Hardy said USAID is currently working with the Anti-Red Tape Authority and the Department of Information and Communications Technology and improving internet connectivity in several urban centers.

    The USAID has been working with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to accelerate digital payments in the country through Pesonet and Instant Pay platforms which Hardy said revolutionized payment transactions in the Philippines.

    He cited a report by the Better than Cash Alliance which revealed that average monthly digital payment transactions increased 25 fold from $25 million in 2015 to $490 million by the end of 2018.

    He also noted a quantum leap of digital payments from $6 billion in 2013, to $24 billion in the same time.

    Hardy said since 2013, USAID has also been using information technology support to support the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s tax administration to improve business processes and to automate tax systems.

    “Over the past five years, the country saw a 13-fold increase in tax payers filing their taxes online using updated electronic system for tax collection. And today, more than 85 percent of taxes are paid electronically,” Hardy said, adding that alongside of many other tax policy and tax administration reforms has boosted tax revenues by 56 percent.

    Hardy said during the early months of the pandemic, the USAID also created a digital platforms to help Filipino farmers, as well as transport their produce to market and helped address the urgent food security needs in Metro Manila, as well as in the provinces. USAID supported initiatives for digital solutions in the health and education sectors as well. (I. Isip)