The first-ever digital cooperative summit, aimed at empowering cooperatives through technology, was launched at the inaugural Philippine FinTech Festival (PFF), the regional conference where key technology enablers gathered to discuss the issues, challenges, and best practices in creating an innovative digital system for the cooperative sector.
Leading the summit was digiCOOP, the country’s first and only technological service cooperative that is revolutionizing the Philippine cooperative sector by providing an online platform that extends financial inclusion to its members. Partnering with it was Digital Pilipinas, the convenor of PFF and the largest private sector movement creating a technology and innovation ecosystem geared to bring about technological acceleration in the country.
In his keynote speech, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Undersecretary David Almirol, Jr. stressed the crucial role of embracing technological tools to empower key agencies in the economy.
A Filipino cooperative moment
“As we join our hands together, there will be more unity in doing business,” said USec. Almirol.
digiCOOP President and CEO Ann Cuisia noted that while the cooperatives’ digital transformation has been progressing slowly, she hopes for an increase in adoption.
“It’s never too late for this country to have a mainstream Filipino cooperative movement,” said Cuisia.
The cooperative is a vital economic player in the grassroots movement. As of 2020, the Cooperative Development Authority reported that there are over 11,000 operating cooperatives and 11.5 million co-op members.
According to digiCOOP, cooperatives can maximize revenue through the use of smart technology and forge the power of their digital assets.
“We established digiCOOP as a platform for cooperatives where they can exchange services with other member cooperatives, essentially building their members’ wealth through participation in a lively ecosystem,” said Cuisia.
“Undoubtedly, the future is cross-border. The goal of Digital Pilipinas’ partnership with digiCOOP is to put the Philippine cooperatives side-by-side with other global best practices,” said Amor Maclang, the convenor of PFF and Digital Pilipinas.
digiCOOP’s online platform is powered by TraXion Tech, a company that seeks to elevate the social-impact quotient of any business or organization it works with through transformative technology.
Cooperatives such as the Manuel Guianga and Sirib Growers and Employees Multipurpose Cooperative (MAGSIGE MPC), which was established to help banana growers with their labor issues, expanded their services through digiCOOP’s power of technology. By embracing technology, MAGSIGE MPC’s services now include digital wallets, marketplaces, and livelihood programs, allowing them to create a more streamlined and convenient co-op system for their members and opening more opportunities for them.
Futureproofing cooperatives through digital
Panelists from the financial technology sector discussed the opportunities that digitalization brings to the cooperative sector, including expansion of business services and making them globally competitive.
“Through application of new technology such as Application Programming Interface (API), we can help cooperatives expand their services and enrich the lives of the members,” said Brankas Head of Partnerships Jeremille Raton. Brankas offers APIs which allows applications to “communicate” with each other like the exchange of instant messages in a social media platform.
Another panel raised digitalization challenges like cybersecurity risks and fraud, and the solutions offered by digital technology.
“Cooperative members are very trusting in terms of sharing private data; that’s why there is a need to empower them with knowledge of digital technology,” said Cuisia.
From grassroots to the digital age
“Technology has become sophisticated. Gone are the days of developing ‘full systems,’ and instead we use APIs, which ensures the safety of online transactions,” added Raton.
As an enabler of businesses through financing, SeedIn Technology Executive Director Edison Tsai noted that “a lot of the digital transformation starts at the grassroots level.”
This trend further reinforces digiCOOP’s “mission is to ‘enable the enablers’ at the bottom of the pyramid using technology,” said Cuisia.
Cooperatives who attended the event included the San Dionisio Credit Cooperative, 1 Cooperative Insurance System of the Philippines Life and General Insurance, Manatal Multipurpose Cooperative, ACDI Multipurpose Cooperative and Simbayanan ni Maria Multipurpose Cooperative.