Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Packworks Partners with Help.NGO to Bring Starlink Internet Connectivity to Sari-Sari Stores in Catanduanes

Packworks Partners with Help.NGO to Bring Starlink Internet Connectivity to Sari-Sari Stores in Catanduanes

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Packworks, a Filipino startup that offers a business-to-business (B2B) FMCG marketplace for sari-sari stores, has launched SariLink in partnership with the international non-profit organization Help.NGO aimed at providing fast and reliable Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Connectivity through Starlink Internet to close the digital divide and boost local entrepreneurship in the Philippines.

The partnership, currently in its pilot run, has installed LEO communication terminals in select micro-retail stores in Catanduanes. This strategic move empowers small entrepreneurs in the far-flung areas of the island to be digitally connected by leveraging innovative solutions provided by the Packworks platform.

The SariLink program is designed to bridge the digital gap that micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) often face due to unreliable internet access. The “Better Internet for All Filipinos” 2024 report by the World Bank indicates that despite recent advancements, the Philippines is still lagging behind neighboring countries in Southeast Asia (SEA) in terms of internet connectivity. The report highlights that issues of affordability, speed, and access create a disparate digital landscape.

Moreover, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that Internet access and speed are significantly lower in rural regions, underscoring the challenge of reaching geographically isolated and rural areas.

With the newly installed LEO connection through Starlink, which can achieve speeds up to 220 Mbps download and 80 Mbps upload, stores in Catanduanes now have access to tools to digitize their operations, including pricing tools, inventory management, and sales and revenue tracking. They are also able to process digital payments and access vital inventory financing services to help them grow their businesses.

Store beneficiaries enrolled in the SariLink program will be monitored for sales growth using Amazon Web Services (AWS) data analytics to ensure they receive the right support to optimize their operations and grow their businesses effectively.

One of the beneficiary sari-sari store owners, Cynthia Icaonapo, 49, from Pandan, Catanduanes, has shared that the LEO connection through Starlink provided by the partnership between Packworks and Help.NGO has significantly improved her business management.

“Noon, manu-mano naming sinusulat ang bawat pinamimili ng mga customer at mobile data lang ang gamit namin na mabagal sa aming lugar. Kaya laking pasasalamat namin at nakabitan kami ng Starlink Internet dahil mas pinadali na nito ang bawat transaksyon namin sa araw-araw,” said Icaonapo.

(“Before, we manually wrote down each customer’s purchases, and we only used mobile data, which was slow in our area. So, we are very grateful to have been connected to Starlink Internet because it has greatly simplified our daily transactions.”)

After being installed with the LEO Internet terminal, in the full month of February 2024, Icaonapo’s store, Nisos Variety Store, increased its transactions by about 53% compared to the previous month.

The initiative is aligned with Help.NGO’s Technology Advocacy and Resilience Programme, in collaboration with AWS, aiming to enhance the readiness and resilience of vulnerable communities worldwide through strategic technology use.

“Bridging the digital divide, especially in isolated communities, can bring outsized impact on resiliency by giving people the ability to communicate and connect to the internet, they are able to build their own resilience. We are excited to work with local partners, including Packworks, to push resilience through connectivity,” said Matthew Cua, Innovation Director of Help.NGO.

Packworks Co-founder and Chief Platform Officer Hubert Yap expressed enthusiasm about the partnership, stating, “We are thrilled to partner with Help.NGO, a collaboration that advances our vision of bringing digitization to the forefront of Philippine economic development. This partnership is not just about providing technology but about crafting a future where every small business owner has the tools to succeed in the digital age. Through this strategic collaboration, we are excited about the potential to expand this initiative, ensuring that the benefits of digital connectivity reach every corner of the Philippines and setting a precedent for grassroots-level economic resilience and sustainability.”

Packworks and Help.NGO share a commitment to advocating for financial and digital literacy at the grassroots level aimed at building more resilient and strong communities. Packworks, founded by Yap and co-founders Bing Tan and Ibba Bernardo, emerged from their drive to improve goods accessibility for remote sari-sari stores during their passion project of delivering solar panels to provinces and far-flung places.

On the other hand, Help.NGO, registered in the European Union (EU) with operations globally, specializes in emergency response, preparedness, risk mitigation, and prevention. The organization employs cutting-edge technological solutions and its extensive expertise to strengthen national and international disaster response capabilities, ensuring communities can better withstand and recover from emergencies.

The SariLink program will be in its one-year pilot run and calls for partners and funders to help push it further to expand to other rural areas in the country.