“THE world is changing fast, we can’t fall behind. We have to prepare for the future. The future is not very far.”
This was the statement delivered by Antonio "Yobie" Benjamin, one of the pioneers among Filipinos in Silicon Valley, during the recently-concluded 5th Geeks on a Beach (GOAB) 2017 international conference and startup competition on August 24 and 25 in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
The tech guru, who is formerly from Malabon City, Metro Manila, is chief technology officer (CTO) of clickSWITCH and Emeritus CTO of Token.io – two finance-oriented startups among many other tech and entrepreneurship engagements. He is a successful venture investor and innovator in life sciences, IoTm FinTech, sustainability and consumer products,
In a discussion, Benjamin, shared that there will come a day that, sooner, a disruption caused by technology will wrought on the job world, leaving thousands, even millions jobless unless a necessary move will be taken.
He explained that today's world is evolving into a world where machines, computers are starting to think. He said Artificial Intelligence (AI) is getting cognitive powers, beyond just computers performing computing tasks.
Recognizing this, Benjamin suggested that, first, government must push for improving the country's internet infrastructure.
Also, he suggested that, for example, in the Business Process Management (BPM) industry, the workers should upgrade and prepare for a “knowledge worker-driven” world.
"Because the competition is not going to be who can provide the cheapest service anymore, but it is going to be a lot of it is going to be driven by artificial intelligence," he said.
"You know, even fast food jobs are going to be taken over by robots. So, no more McDonald's servers. Think of Jollibee with no people. Think of drivers who drive jeepneys in Manila; no more, no more drivers," he added.
Benjamin said that the government must make a national policy preparing for a workforce that requires very different skills and engage in global economy.
Benjamin, however, emphasized that, yes, technology may arise but it can never overpower humans for one reason: creativity.
Benjamin, meanwhile, is currently writing a book, “Tribes of the Valley” chronicling the different power tribes and groups in Silicon Valley. It is due for publication sometime in 2018.
Shift to Digital Culture
In a separate discussion, Jojo Flores, co-founder of Silicon Valley-based startup accelerator Plug and Play Tech, said the shift to the digital culture is apparent, and there is nothing we can do but embrace.
He said it can be considered as an opportunity for countries such as the Philippines where ideas coming from the younger generation are waiting to b fished.
“If you look at our current economy, it’s all services. As you know, services are very vulnerable. It becomes vulnerable because it’s service-based… That’s why it’s important to create IT-based, knowledge-based companies and you get that from startups,” he said.
He urged giant businesses to consider engaging with startups, noting that their ideas can help their companies step into the digital age.
“We have to engage with startups because they think outside of the box. They’re faster, but we need to guide them to the right direction,” said Flores.
Ramon Escueta of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce Inc., for his part said, major corporations are starting to engage in startups.
In a separate interview, Diane Eustaquio, executive director of startup incubator IdeaSpace shared about three of successful startups in the country: FrontLearners, Fame, and Fetch Valley
Frontlearners, she said, is a ready-to-use cost effective e-School-in-a-Box with interactive K to 12 lessons that can be used even without the internet.
While, Fame, is a startup entity that makes air and sea travel safer through its affordable and easily deployable general aviation & maritime transponder and gateway.
Lastly, Fetch Valley, a valley system that can be replicated in other areas where they can have valley services.
Goab is an annual event for the Philippine startup community. On its 5th year, some 400 participants from the government and the private sector, including successful technology entrepreneurs from Southeast Asia and Silicon Valley, has gathered in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.