Filipinos emerge as top 'e-cash adopters' in Asia Pacific during pandemic — study

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 15) — While cash still rules, the Philippines is riding the digital boom during the COVID-19 pandemic as it has the highest number of "e-cash adopters" among 10 countries in the Asia Pacific region, a study from a global cybersecurity firm showed.

Based on Kaspersky's "Mapping a secure path for the future of digital payments in APAC" released on Thursday, the Philippines recorded the highest percentage of new e-cash adopters at 37%.

It was followed by India (23%), Australia (15%), Vietnam (14%), Indonesia (13%) and Thailand (13%), and Singapore (11%).

China, South Korea, and Malaysia, on the other hand, saw the lowest number of first-time online payment users.

"Data from our fresh research showed that cash is still king, at least for now, in APAC with 70% of the respondents still using physical notes for their day-to-day transactions," Chris Connell, managing director for Asia Pacific at Kaspersky, was quoted as saying in the report.

"However, mobile payment and mobile banking applications are not far behind with 58% and 52% users utilizing these platforms at least once a week up to more than once a day for their finance-related tasks," he added.

China continues to lead mobile payments in the region, with financial technology (fintech) giants Alipay and WeChat Pay enjoying their dominance even before the pandemic.

In the Philippines alone, mobile wallets of telco players PLDT and Globe Telecom have been seeing a spike in their user base amid the national government's shifting coronavirus rules.

Ending the first half, GCash saw its registered users ballooned to more than 43 million, with monthly gross transaction value hitting ₱200 billion.

PayMaya, meanwhile, said registered users surged to 40 million as of end-August. Late in September, it secured a license from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to operate a digital bank.

"We can infer that the pandemic has triggered more people to dip their toes into the digital economy, which may fully dethrone cash use here in the next three to five years," Kaspersky's Connell said.

Forty-five percent of the respondents from the 10 countries also said digital payment platforms allow them to stick to social distancing; 36% of users said these are the only way to do monetary transactions during lockdowns; while 29% of them believed digital gateways are now more secure compared to pre-COVID time.

However, 48% of first-time users admitted their fear of losing money online, while 41% of the respondents were also hesitant of storing their financial data online.

"It is a welcome finding that the public is aware of the risks that comes with online transactions and because of this, developers and providers of mobile payment applications should now look into the cybersecurity gaps in each stage of the payment process and implement security features, or even a secure-by-design approach to fully gain the trust of the future and existing digital payment adopters," Connell said.

The Kaspersky study, conducted in July, involved interviews with 1,618 working professionals aged 18 to 65 across the 10 countries.