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Co-ops ready for Digital Economy

ILOILO CITY – Co-ops must, can, and will definitely go Digital!
More than 700 leaders from 189 cooperatives converged last April 26-28 at the Grand Xing Imperial Hotel for the 17TH Co-op Leaders’ Congress and 42nd General Assembly.  They came to learn, be inspired, and face the ongoing Digital Revolution.
Held at the Ballroom, a powerlist of speakers who are authorities in their respective fields gave directions for co-ops to take in the “Digitalization” of the economy not only in the Philippines, but worldwide. 
The theme for the event is: "NATCCO Network 4.0: Positioning Cooperatives in a Digital Economy."  
"4.0" refers to the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Keynote Speaker on the opening day was Rafaelita Aldaba, Dept. of Trade & Industry Undersecretary for Competitiveness and Innovation.  She said: “Traditional cooperatives do not use digital technologies.  But our aim is for the transformation to happen!”
Former NATCCO Chairperson Wilfredo Dimamay of MSU-IIT National Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Iligan City said: The Digital Revolution is now here.  We are in the thick of it.  If we in the cooperative sector will not be involved in it, we will be as obsolete as the dinosaur.  So if we want to be relevant and attract millennials into our movement, we must be part of it.  Join us!”
Sherwin Celestino of St. Martin Cooperative in Bulacan, said: “It is imperative for co-ops to adopt new technologies.  The economy is going digital and we should not be left behind!”
NATCCO Chairperson Attorney Soledad Cabangis said: “The only permanent thing in the universe is change.  It is understandable we are sometimes afraid to embrace change.  But it will be more scary if we will not face change.  We have nothing to fear because we have good leaders and expert partners.  So with all of us united and inspired, with dedication and good intentions, I know that God our Father will help all of us succeed.”
Atty. Cabangis, speaking at the Opening Ceremonies, urged all participants to remain rooted in Principles: “If gold will cause us to forget the Cooperative Principles, let’s forget Gold!”
E-Commerce Advocate, Janette Toral told the participants: “I am a big believer of ‘organic marketing.’ Instead of reaching out to people you don’t know, work first with the people that you know.”  She said that referring to the Network of cooperatives that NATCCO possesses, obviously urging leaders to take advantage of the linkages.  
Simone Colombara of CRIF urged co-op leaders to use information technology to their advantage to make sound business decisions: “Even if co-ops are so cash-rich, they are so profitable, you still could be more, you could have better margins.  And additionally, if you don’t manage correctly your loan portfolio, there’s a risk of sustainability!” CRIF is a global company that provides credit data management systems.
Since digitalization is very expensive, NATCCO CEO Sylvia Paraguya urged co-ops to share resources: “Whatever the cost, it can be shared by participating cooperatives.  Even if co-ops have their own systems, over time there should be more adoption of the (NATCCO) system as we see that we need to do a lot of work in developing the system.”
The possibilities for co-ops in the new Digital Economy are unlimited according to Petrus Carbonell, Business Development Head of online store Lazada: “Do you want to go global?  You can sell your products online.  It’s just a matter of getting the product together, enter a description, if you want to brand it, do so at DTI, and then go ahead to upload and sell.”
Anatoly Gusto, Market Research Consultant for the World Council of Credit Unions said co-ops need to be brave in the new Digital Economy: “Don’t be scared of technology.  Well, be scared but also be pro-active because there are more players coming on board through electronic payments. Go into electronic payments.  It will expand your market!”
Mamerto Tangonan of USAID  said the Philippines is ready for electronic payments: “I bet you, many of the Filipinos who are “intending to use but are not yet using digital payments” are your members!”
Leni San Roque, CEO of the Association of Asian Confederation of Credit Unions urged leaders to be steadfast, keeping in mind that technology is not the end, but just a means to serve members: “No matter how advanced technologies are, leading us is still co-operation, trust, integrity, kindness and love.  Not the cold technology and data.  Definitely we need data; we need digitalization.  But these can only happen if we are cooperating with one another!”
15-year-old Alessandra Daquila, Chairperson of Barbaza MPC Laboratory Cooperative, told the leaders why co-ops should invest in youth: “If all co-ops in the Philippines would invest in youth, imagine the possibilities.  Young people can contribute so much!  60% young people in the population--we can change the game!  We are highly creative, energetic, and passionate but less ego.  We are the digital natives so we are in the best position to navigate the digital world.  Invest in us, give us more meaningful roles, and you’ll be amazed of what we can do!”
The flagship products of the NATCCO for co-ops to keep pace with the Digital Economy are Kaya Payment Platform that allows members to transact using their cellphones, and eKoopBanker and eKoopBanker Plus which are the choice financial software to perform all co-op transactions.
Mary Magdalene Villegas of DCCCO Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Dumaguete City was a first-time participant and gave her comments on the three-day event: “This is my first NATCCO GA and I am truly impressed.  It has been a good learning experience for me.  We saw the big picture of what the Digital Revolution is all about.  Cooperatives should be central in the new digital economy.  We can bring financial inclusion to the countryside if we adopt new technologies.”

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