CEBU suffered a setback in the 2019 Top 100 Super Cities list released by global consulting firm Tholons.
From its 11th ranking in 2018, Cebu City fell to the 12th spot in the Tholons Services Globalization Index (TSGI) 2019 released early this month.
Cebu IT-BPM (information technology-business process management) Organization (Cib.O) managing director Wilfredo Sa-a Jr. said Cebu fell short in the digital innovation and adoption indicator.
“Unfortunately, we are not in the Top 10. The list is becoming more competitive, and other countries are catching up fast on digital adoption and the startup activities. Admittedly, we are behind in this area. We still have to catch up,” said Sa-a.
Cebu also ranked 12th in 2017.
The TSGI, which is published annually, ranks the Top 100 “Super Cities” and Top 50 “Digital Nations.”
Cebu first figured in Tholons’ list in 2006. It rose from an emerging city to the 7th Super city in 2016.
The 2019 index included new indicators such as the number of mobile phone/internet users, regulatory/compliance, digital investment and usage of artificial intelligence/cloud.
Only three Philippine cities are left in the top 100. Aside from Cebu, Manila has maintained its second spot in this year’s Top 10 Super Cities list while Davao fell to 95 from 75 last year. The cities of Sta. Rosa, Bacolod and Iloilo are no longer in the top 100.
The top 10 Super Cities are Bangalore (1), Metro Manila (2), Sao Paulo (3), Mumbai (4), Dublin (5), Toronto (6), Delhi (7), Hyderabad (8), Singapore (9) and Buenos Aires (10).
The Philippines also fell three notches in the list of Top 50 Digital Nations, from ranking second in 2018 to fifth this year.
The Top 10 Digital Nations are India (1), Brazil (2), US (3), Canada (4), the Philippines (5), United Kingdom (6), Russia (7), Mexico (8), Singapore (9) and Argentina (10).
Sa-a cited the huge improvement of Singapore, which ranked 12th in 2018.
“Singapore has overtaken us because it has done a lot of digital transformation. They are very active in the startup ecosystem. In fact, last year, they mounted the 2018 Fintech Festival, the biggest event I have attended. This is one of the reasons it rose in the rankings,” he said.
Tholons said businesses are embracing digital technologies and platforms like social media, mobile technology, cognitive computing, machine learning, big data analytics, virtual reality/augmented reality, intelligent automation, cloud and artificial intelligence.
It noted that countries and the cities are competing in the arena of digital transformation, with significant focus on creating an environment of digital skills, culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
“Startups are synonymous with the best of innovation. It becomes imperative to study the startup ecosystem of a location. Technology startups are key to development of digital talent in a city,” it said.
Tholons said the number of startups in a city is fueled by government incentives to startups, availability of funds, mentors to guide, corporate accelerators and venture capitalists. Government’s role in fostering innovation and the startup ecosystem is vital.
A huge task is ahead for Cebu to catch up in the rankings.
“We need more digital adoption in our government processes,” he said, referring to the processes involved in obtaining business permits, community tax certificates and real estate taxes.
He also cited the need for Cebu to have a functional one-stop shop where new employees can get their Social Security System number, taxpayer identification number, PhilHealth number and National Bureau of Investigation clearance.
Private and public stakeholders should also help Cebu create a vibrant startup ecosystem. He added talents must also be more ready for programming and coding related jobs.
Sa-a said that based on the latest list of Top 10 jobs in the gig economy, four out of the top five jobs will require coding or programming background. “We are preparing our future talents, not only for the higher value services, but also for the future jobs.”
He said the industry should explore other forms of outsourcing like back office operations, non-voice, information technology, shared services, health information management, finance and accounting, banking, engineering and new products and services from startup communities.