A niche for Filipino talent

Filipinos have a niche in IT-enabled industries, as shown by the country’s ongoing success with Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing (IT-BPO) especially in voice services. Last year, the IT-BPO industry continued its growth rally, earning US$15.5 billion — up by 17 percent from the US$13.2 billion the year before.  Employment expanded from 770,000 in 2012 to 900,000 in 2013.

This natural niche is proved by the ubiquity of a great number of Filipino computer engineers and software developers abroad.  Bloomberg Businessweek recently listed the places-of-origin of Silicon Valley’s talent base.  Much of the tech hub’s workforce came from Mexico and various American states.  Interestingly, thePhilippines emerged as the 6th place-of-origin-the highest in Asia, more than China (7th) and India (9th).

We may have talented IT professionals, but the local environment does not appear conducive for their careers to grow and flourish.  This is such a pity since the country has immense potential for Internet-driven growth.

US-based think tank IHS projected that IT-BPO would be significant in driving the country’s growth into a trillion-dollar economy by 2030, especially with the expansion into non-voice services like animation, legal research and healthcare information management.

A social media capital of the world, the country boasts a burgeoning e-commerce market.  Around 24 million Filipinos — or 64 percent of the 38 million with Internet access today — make purchases online. Though figures are unclear, some estimate that Philippine e-commerce has already become a one-billion-dollar industry.

Having a proclivity for cellular phones, Filipinos are now moving to smartphones.  GfK Asia, a consumer research firm, found that between 2011 and 2013, thePhilippines was the fastest-growing market for smartphones in Southeast Asia.

World-class talent and respectable ICT penetration rates make the Philippines attractive for a tech startup system to boom and flourish. However, the sector is dormant.

The 2013 World Startup Report noted that while opportunities for tech startups abound in the country, many barriers remain. Seed funding and venture capital are limited, while Internet infrastructure is sadly wanting. More importantly, the young still lack the entrepreneurial drive necessary for our bright IT professionals to translate their skills and knowledge into profitable businesses.

This year, the Philippine Development Foundation (PhilDev), chaired by Filipino and Silicon Valley icon Dado Banatao, garnered a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for the Innovative Development through Entrepreneurship Acceleration (IDEA) program. The initiative aims to train some of the country’s top science and engineering graduates in the basics of entrepreneurship including business planning and project financing.

Before the Senate adjournment, Senator Sonny Angara co-sponsored the Youth Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy Act of 2014 (SBN 2212) on the Senate floor.  The measure mandates the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to incorporate entrepreneurship and good financial planning in the basic education curriculum.

These are only two of the developments deserving of full support by policymakers. This is vital to sustaining the country’s rising economic growth.

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