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Cooperatives urged to ‘future proof’ by embracing technology

Roderick Abad / Business Mirror

DIGITAL transformation is encouraged among cooperatives, which represent 10.7 million Filipino families nationwide, to “future proof” and ensure their relevance amid the emergence of advanced technologies in the finance sector like mobile wallets and online banking system.

“Cooperative insurance should be part of our modernization plan,” Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) Assistant Secretary Abad “Buddy” L. Santos said during the first-ever National Cooperative Business Congress (NCBC) held recently at the Novaliches Development Cooperative Convention Center in Quezon City.

He made this appeal to public utility vehicle modernization and transport cooperatives that have difficulties adapting such trends due to limited access to financial assistance.

Sharing the same sentiment with him was Traxion Chief Executive Officer Ann Cuisia, founder and creator of digiCOOP, who pushed them to embrace digitalization and modern tools, such as open finance technology, that make it “easier for cooperatives to apply for loans and adapt to government mandates towards modernization much faster.”

CDA-registered digiCOOP provides a complete virtual platform for cooperatives, which includes an online payment gateway; a marketplace, which serves both members and non-members; e-learning; and credit scoring, among others.

The company, in its first year of operations, has already onboarded the top 140 co-op leaders and integrated over 426 brick-and-mortar co-op branches into its web channel.

“Currently, the rigid requirements being imposed upon our cooperatives through the traditional financial system are hampering the growth of this grassroots sector. We are aiming to change all that with digiCOOP which makes the co-ops’ transition to online virtually seamless,” she said.

Recently, the firm introduced the Cooperation Network Teller Machine, the first QR-code-enabled of its kind that links cooperatives and rural banks to the traditional bank network, as well as to remittance centers and e-wallet providers.

“With the CTM, we are filling the gap in the traditional banking financial system to reach the underserved. Together with digiCOOP’s own mobile payment app and a core banking system specially designed for co-ops, we are bridging the digital divide, one coop at a time,” said Cuisia.

More than 400 representatives from cooperatives all over the Philippines attended the NCBC, which tackled various programs to address the challenges confronting various industries including health, transportation, electric supply, and credit and financial services.

The participants learned in the two-day conference that “digitalization levels the playing field for cooperatives with private corporations” and that by working together, cooperatives of all sizes can move toward a future that is rife with opportunities for the grassroots.

Senator Robin Padilla, at the hearing of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, pushed for the organization of farmers and fishers into co-operatives, and to help them run their own businesses.

“Kasi nakakaawa ang magsasaka natin, ang anak nila ayaw nilang gawing magsasaka (Our farmers are so poor that they do not want their children to follow in their footsteps),” he said.

When the CDA representative said they are coordinating with agencies such as the Department of Agriculture and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Padilla asked them to prioritize helping farmers and fishers to have their own businesses.

“Kailangan maging businessman na rin ang ating mga magsasaka at mangingisda, kailangan mailagay nila sa sarili na sila ay businessman (Our farmers and fishermen must become businessmen and regard themselves as such),” he said.

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