The Philippines, as the second most populous country in Southeast Asia (SEA), presents a golden platform for blockchain development. With a population of more than 107 million and an internet penetration rate of 71%, the Philippines offers one of the best blockchain markets in the SEA region. However, with its large population comes the challenge of banking the unbanked, which stands at a worrying 77%. Thankfully, there is Project i2i which aims to provide banking facilities to citizens living in remote areas who make up a large percentage of the unbanked population in the archipelago nation.
Project i2i is a blockchain-based financial technology (fintech) initiative spearheaded by the Union Bank of the Philippines to connect 130 rural banks in the Philippines with the country’s central financial network. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, most of the rural banks in the Philippines are effectively unbanked themselves, due to their lack of connectivity with the country’s central financial network. This, in turn, results in the customers of these banks being unable to receive international remittances — a significant problem given that 10% of the Philippines‘ gross domestic product (GDP) comprises such remittances sent by overseas workers to their families.
Thus, Project i2i was born. Rural banks only need to install the i2i application into their operating systems, and they will be able to execute bank-to-bank transactions on international financial networks on behalf of their customers. This innovative project presents a cost-effective alternative to the traditional connection framework which requires rural banks to be connected to the BancNet and SWIFT networks in order to execute international transactions. Project i2i has become a saving grace for the unbanked population of 35 million Filipinos.
In the context of the Philippines, the readiness to explore a crypto solution is not unexpected, given that as many as 1 out of 10 Filipinos already use cryptocurrencies to make payments. Taking into consideration the high number of crypto users and the significant proportion of unbanked citizens in the Philippines, it was only a matter of time before a crypto solution was deployed to address the widespread challenge. It came as no surprise when it was announced in April this year that international financial services giant Western Union entered into a collaboration with Coins.ph, allowing international and domestic remittances made to Filipino beneficiaries through Western Union’s network to be transferred directly into their Coins.ph accounts. Coins.ph reportedly has more than 5 million users.
Other than fintech and cryptocurrency, the blockchain landscape in the Philippines also extends to the healthcare industry in the form of the mediXServe application — an interoperable platform consisting of telemedicine and electronic medical record database services. Other than healthcare, the real estate industry’s Qwikwire application provides a comprehensive suite of solutions for real estate transactions, covering matters relating to property listing and management as well as payment invoicing and settlement.
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