Technology

How Apps Can Promote Change

By 二月 6, 2020 二月 20th, 2020 No Comments

This article was originally published with The Manila Times on February 6, 2020.

It’s a daily occurrence, one that we barely think of before doing. We rely on alarm apps to wake up, to remind us of our schedules, what commutes to take, how to book a ride, and how to order a meal. We rely on apps before we even have breakfast.

For some, this is nothing new. What is of incredible interest, however, is how technology and apps have pushed humanity to change our way of life. As of 2019, there were over 4.8 million apps available to over 5 billion mobile users out of the 7.5-billion population worldwide. Global internet penetration stands at 57 percent. Clearly, humanity’s reliance on the internet and mobile applications is immense.

Given these statistics, one can gleam as to how a cultural and behavioral change can be achieved through some applications.

Here are some apps.

TaxWhiz 

As early as 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote: “nothing in this world can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Respectfully, I have to say that in today’s world, taxes are by no means certain, and are far more complicated than ever before.

In various surveys for instance, it revealed that as high as 57 percent of Americans are not confident of their understanding of tax laws, with 49 percent indicating they feel they pay too much in taxes. In the Philippines, similar sentiment could be prevalent, given how dispersed the resources are in terms of taxation, from the National Internal Revenue Code, its many amendments, and numerous Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Memorandum Circulars, it is easy to get lost in the sheer voluminous nature of Philippine tax laws and policies.

Enter stage left, TaxWhizPH, a mobile app created by local tax master Mon Abrea and celebrity-entrepreneur James Reid. TaxWhizPH is specifically focused to make understanding taxes easier, making compliance wore widespread.

For instance, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) account for 99.52 percent of business establishments in the country. With different business models comes equally divergent tax implications alongside dissimilar tax filing deadlines. Most MSME owners and managers are focused more on maintaining and growing their businesses, and are understandably confused by the multitude of tax treatments their businesses face.

TaxWhizPH is built for the layperson, with features such as a tax calculator that computes the amounts to be paid and filed, a calendar with alert feature to remind taxpayers of what to pay and when (thereby avoiding penalties), and a consultation feature where users can ask the experts. What I find very exciting is the future development of financial technology, where the app will provide means for automated generation of reports in BIR forms, an electronic filing and payment system, and an optical character recognition (OCR) feature where receipts can be scanned and automatically inputted instead of the tedious manual retyping and computing currently practiced.

TaxWhizPH has indeed massive potential to empower individuals with a better functional understanding and automated system of the Philippine tax system, geared for a higher and more widespread compliance rate.

APEC2020 

Next week, Anti-Red Tape Authority Director General Jeremiah Belgica and myself will be attending the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) 2020 meetings in Malaysia. A multilateral event of this size is understandably a logistical nightmare to organize. Twenty-one member economies sending thousands of delegates, businesspersons and staff can provide numerous instances of miscommunication. The old practice involved time-consuming briefings, paper-devouring leaflets, posters and information packets.

I was pleasantly surprised that upon registration through their official channels, we are provided individual login information for use in their APEC2020 app, tailored to our individual needs throughout the conferences. Information is readily-available, empowering the delegates of schedules, locations, assignments and the like.

Admittedly, this is by no means a new development, as the app was already used in the previous APEC summits, but the learning here is that a similar model, utilizing the basic features of smartphones, can be implemented in many massive conferences and summits.

With the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions industry expected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2025, the need for technology-based systems to better guide visitors and provide for their requirements are a key competitive advantage that organizers should explore.

Another key feature is the adoption of big data systems to ascertain what exhibitions attracted which attendees, and how much time and amounts they spent would provide valuable information for the organization and preparation of future events. That is truly a topic for future columns.

The author is chief of staff at the Anti-Red Tape Authority and Founder of Caucus Inc., a multi-industry, multidisciplinary management consultancy firm. He graduated MBA (De La Salle University), Juris Doctor (Far Eastern University), and Masters of Law in International Commercial Law (Honours, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom). He also studied Mandarin Chinese Language and Culture in Fuzhou, China, was a Chevening-HSBC UK Government Scholar, a Confucius Institute Scholar, an alumnus of the US State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, and a Fellow of the Asia Global Institute – University of Hong Kong. The author may be emailed at iap@caucusinc.com.

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