Learnings from the Philippines

Learned a few things during my trip to the Philippines this time. Another country that amazes me. For the first time in history, Philippines attracted more foreign direct investments (FDI) than Malaysia, in 2010 (see: Malaysia’s FDI plunge).

Mobiles

There are a lot of people here using prepaid phones as opposed to postpaid phones. This is because the requirements of getting a postpaid account is quite tough (you need bank documents, etc. before they give you an account).

Many people carry more than one phone (or have more than one SIM). Smartphones face an uphill battle – they cost too much and there is generally no operator subsidy because everyone prefers prepaid accounts. It makes economic sense to have more than one SIM, as you’ll end up saving money (operators like to offer free text, calls, etc. from time to time).

It’s interesting to note that SMS is very common in the Philippines. At the conference, you ask questions the traditional way – going up to the microphone. Here in Manila, you can also send a SMS message and it will be asked on your behalf. Very handy use of technology, especially in Asia, when people are occasionally scared to ask questions in-front of a large audience.

Data plans are not very common here. The cost of mobile data only recently took a price cut here, it would seem. USB dongles with data can be had for about PHP1,200-1,500 per month, with no implemented data cap (they’ll tell you its 3GB, but apparently nothing happens if the limit is hit). That’s quite impressive, since you might also just plug it into a MiFi and get data for cheap, on the go.

Social Networking

Facebook is the social network of choice. Multiply is losing ground. Friendster is the network of the past. This is true with the universities, and it is also true on popular TV shows (I caught a VJ talking about the shows Multiply and Facebook presence). Twitter seems to be pretty large here.

Foursquare and other location based services (LBS) do not seem to be very popular at all. In the Makati area, you’ll find people checking in, and there has been some use of Facebook Places even. You’re usually about 4-9 check-in’s away from becoming the mayor from what I’ve seen. Students have next to no use of these LBS services; I have a feeling that it should largely be attributed to data plans being uncommon.

Gaming, payments, OFW’s

People love to play Farmville and other Zynga games online. Credit cards are not common here. You can buy prepaid cards to buy credits for online games. Virtual goods is a large market here. Social gaming – I see this more and more now. Online shopping/e-commerce is not too widespread.

Gaming (gambling) is common. There is legalised e-gaming (presumably with taxes going to the government), but there is also a growing number of illegal gaming making lots of money. Apparently this industry is quite large. Here gambling also has another problem – the Catholic church is not necessarily very happy with it.

Today, remittance can happen via mobile phones from overseas. From what I understand, if you are an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) you can remit money from Singapore to the Philippines using your mobile phone. Telcos are going past banks, becoming clearing houses. It turns out that last year, through official means, OFW’s contributed about 20 billion dollars to the Philippine economy. That is something in excess of 15% of the GDP of the nation. About 11% of all Filipinos are overseas as an OFW. Population currently stands at 80 million.

In conclusion

There are lots and lots of smart people here. UP has about 80,000 students. Over 19,772 people attended Y4iT. The crew did a fabulous job in terms of organising and getting people together.

The people are all very friendly. They all speak English. I know many people outsourcing work to the Philippines through services like oDesk.

Generally, good stuff is happening here. Manila is the only place I’ve been to, but I know there are DevCon’s happening elsewhere and there are other IT hubs in Cebu, for example.

Related posts:

  1. MySQL at the Sun Tech Days, Philippines
  2. Special data plans provide a mountain to climb for startups
  3. Opportunities to talk MariaDB/MySQL in Manila, Philippines
  4. MySQL Rocks: Wen Huang, in Makati City, Philippines
  5. Mobile prepaid broadband in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore

i