FROM ranking 15th in the Top 100 Super Cities by Tholons in 2020, Cebu City has nosedived to the 52nd rank, while Manila has plunged to eighth rank from sitting at the second spot last year.

“The current index for 2021 has a much higher emphasis on digital innovation, re-imagining of consumer experience, transcendental knowledge, future readiness, digital competitiveness and diversity and inclusion,” the Tholons Global Innovation Index 2021 report said.

Tholons introduced innovation, startup ecosystem and digital transformation as key components to define its index for Top 50 Digital Nations and Top 100 Super Cities in 2017.

From ranking sixth in 2020, Toronto, Canada emerged first in the Top 20 Supercities in 2021, followed by Singapore which climbed from the ninth spot last year. Bangalore, which was last year’s top supercity, slid to the third rank. Bangalore had maintained the No. 1 position for the last 15 years.

Colliers said this is the first time that Bangalore has taken a step back. This year’s report has a significant emphasis on disruptive innovation and women diversity. Bangalore was followed by San Francisco (4), Dublin (5), Sao Paulo (6), London (7), Manila (8), Mumbai (9) and New York (10).

The 2021 Tholons report released Wednesday, March 3, 2021, also revealed that the Philippines now ranks 18th in the Top 50 Digital Nations list, down sharply from its fifth place ranking last year.

The United States snatched the top spot from India, which is now second in rank. Included in the top digital nations list are Canada (3), Germany (4), Singapore (5), Australia (6), Ireland (7), United Kingdom (8), Norway (9) and Sweden (10).

“Artificial intelligence, innovation, digital marketing and tech-based entrepreneurship will fuel the economies in this decade. Untapped power of women entrepreneurship, engagement and empowerment is leading the way like never before,” said Ankita Vashistha, chief executive officer at Tholons, in a statement.

According to Wilfredo Sa-a, former industry leader, the Tholons list is “changing and its criteria are evolving.” “It is now focused on digital adoption and artificial intelligence (AI) integration, among others. It no longer serves as a guide for investors on the best site to outsource unlike before,” he said.

Sa-a emphasized that even with the drop, Cebu still leads in the area of outsourcing. He said while other advanced economies have excelled in digital innovation and transformation, outsourcing jobs in these economies is expensive.

“We still do very good outsourced work. It will be difficult to consider outsourcing from Singapore, for example, and other advanced countries due to its prohibitive costs. With the pandemic, global companies are all finding ways to save and outsourcing has been proven very effective since the global financial crisis of 2008 when the economy of Cebu City led the Philippine countryside in the economic boom since 2009,” said Sa-a.

He added that the Covid-19 pandemic has also shaken global economies and industries. “With a fight more focused on battling the pandemic and its impact, we are really behind compared with the advanced economies,” Sa-a said.

Disruptive innovation

Avinash Vashistha, chairman at Tholons, said: “Disruptive innovation will drive the growth in this decade. Innovation at scale is evident across the internet, technology, 5G, renewable energy, cyber security across industries.”

Tholons said there is a need for enterprises to re-imagine a new model for personalization that emphasizes customer agency. Organizations will need more active engagement strategies, if they want to thrive and succeed.

Leading businesses are adopting “human-AI” collaboration, it said.

“As social distancing becomes the norm, in many industries, robots are transitioning faster than expected from regulated environments to unregulated environments. Corporations and governments are looking for more and newer ‘contact-less’ solutions,” Tholons added.

To regain Cebu’s spot, it should invest in and embrace technology more. Sa-a said automating processes, using online payments, installing affordable and reliable internet connection, and having an ICT officer in all local government units to lead digital transformation in towns and cities could bring improvements. (KOC)