FOLLOWING its exclusion from Tholons’ top 10 global outsourcing list this year, Cebu envisions to bounce back and become the country’s “innovation island” in the digital space.

“We are serious in pursuing programs on startup community development… We want to have a stronger community, and the vision is to make Cebu an innovation island,” said Department of Trade and Industy (DTI) Cebu Director Maria Elena Arbon.

As one venue to meet the local digital and business community, from startups and innovators, as well as the traditional micro, small and medium (MSME) enterprises, DTI stages SlingShotPH Cebu 2017 on Aug. 8 and 9 at the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu.

Digital meet

With 300 expected participants, SlingShotPH will serve as a venue where digital and innovation players in Cebu, together with local traditional business owners, can meet, learn and exchange ideas, and be updated on recent technological changes as well as seek funding support from investors who are ready to embrace innovative ideas.

This is the DTI Cebu’s second staging of SlingShotPH in Cebu in coordination with the DTI Trade and Investment Promotion Group and the Asean Committee on Business and Investment Promotion.

This year’s agenda is in line with the Asean Strategic Action Plan that includes preparing brick and mortar enterprises for transformation in the digital era as well as linking startups with investors. The first staging was in 2016.

Lagging behind

The challenge to innovate has been amplified after a global advisory firm removed Cebu from its top 10 outsourcing list.

Cebu Economic Business Unit consultant Joel Mari Yu said the exclusion of Cebu from the Tholons 2017 list released last month shows how it lags behind in digital innovation.

Based on the Tholons Services Globalization Index (TSGI) 2017 released on June 28, Cebu City was downgraded to the 12th spot in the advisory firm’s Top 100 “Super Cities” from its eighth spot last year.

While it did not explain in its report the reason for Cebu City’s downgrading, Tholons introduced this year “innovation, startup ecosystem and digital transformation” as key components to define its index.

Similarly, Manila experienced a downgrade as it was ranked as the second “super city” in the world for outsourcing after Bangalore, India in 2016. This year, Manila placed fourth after Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi.

Wilfredo Sa-a Jr., Cebu IT-BPM.Organization (CIB.O) managing director, said the Tholons report means more initiatives need to be taken to foster the culture of innovation in Cebu.

Silicon Valley

Briann Mueller of the Cebu Innovation Council said Cebu, in terms of talent, has a lot of potential to lead in digital innovation. The American national said most of these talents currently working for outsourcing companies are even comparable to those in Silicon Valley, the world’s tech hub.

Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, represented by its executive director Mae Ybañez, said the business group will continue to support digital innovation by ensuring that Cebu MSMEs adopt digital technology and platforms to support and enhance their day-to-day operations.