Newly-confirmed Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez has called for digital empowerment in the Philippines to continue fueling the development of the country’s digital commerce or e-commerce, a key priority in the current trade agenda.

“I urge our micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to welcome digital integration,” said Sec. Lopez, adding that now is the perfect timing to rally towards digital empowerment as the Philippine economy experiences strong macro-economic fundamentals, renewed investor confidence and good governance

During the recent office opening of Google in Taguig, the trade chief said that “digital integration is a great equalizer, as it allows MSMEs to gather product ideas and concepts, do market tests and do promotions and selling at practically no cost.”

He also said that MSMEs can make use of programs in partnership with companies like Google, so that the sector “can take advantage of opportunities that go with going digital.

With vast interest infused in the demography of the Philippines as the world’s social media capital and with 50 million Internet users, accounting for 50% of the country’s total population today, the Philippines can be a model country for digital empowerment, according to him.

“I hope that more effective web services, improved search experience and effective advertising platform will be delivered to all stakeholders. With Google officially in the country, we can only expect production of meaningful local contents,” he added.

Citing Statista, it is projected that by 2021, 81% of the country’s population will be Internet users. For the Southeast Asian region alone, the country has the fastest growing Internet audience at 22% growth rate, according to the 2014 Global Web Index, which also found Filipinos having the highest total screen time spent in social networking globally at 3.2 hours.

Sec. Lopez also hoped that digital companies can be more inclusive in its business operations and assured that DTI will support initiatives that proactively promote digital inclusion among Filipinos through digital literacy and digital accessibility.

“I urge tech companies to spearhead programs that will empower Filipino consumers with skills to harness the benefits of technology to improve their quality of life,” he said, adding that forging multi-stakeholder partnership among the government, the civil society, the private sector and the academe is an urgent need.

Google’s expansion in the Philippines also means creation of more jobs for Filipinos, as country manager Ken Lingan has promised to hire local talents. In addition, with the population getting more connected and easily more engaged, an ecosystem of startups can have more strategic venue, in view of Google’s commitment to grow small businesses online.