THE lack of sufficient information about its digital transformation and innovation initiatives could be why Cebu City’s rank dropped in the latest list of Tholons’ Top 100 Supercities, top industry players said.
Jonathan de Luzuriaga, president of the Philippine Software Industry Association, said these advisory companies may not have collated the complete and right information about the real score of Cebu and the Philippines’ digital journey.
“One of the challenges I have been expressing with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is that sometimes, these reports are very much reliant on the information that you feed to consulting companies, and somehow I get the strange feeling that it is more of the lack of information, more than the actual depreciation of our digital value,” said de Luzuriaga in a media briefing during the 2019 Transformation Summit held on Monday, May 6, at the Summit Galleria Hotel Cebu in Cebu City.
Cebu fell one notch lower in the 2019 List of Top 100 Supercities, landing in the 12th spot from the 11th spot in 2018.
The Philippines, likewise, slipped to three notches in the list of Top 50 Digital Nations, from second in 2018 to fifth this year. Tholons’ latest report shed off three other Philippine cities in the list—Bacolod, Iloilo and Sta. Rosa—which were present in the 2018 list. Only Manila, Cebu and Davao were left in this year’s list.
“I think it is more of how we gather information and how we report it. If there is an area for improvement for us, we really have to jot down diligently everything that is happening,” said de Luzuriaga, who is also the president of the National ICT Councils in the Philippines (NICP).
He is convinced that the Philippines has been doing various initiatives to boost its digital competitiveness, but these have not all been completely reported.
“The challenge for organizations is to come up with better narratives in Cebu and report it properly because that is the basis of where we stand,” he said.
“For the last 12 years when the Philippines was always No. 2 after India, I told everyone to forget other rankings. Tholons is the right ranking for the Philippines and that has been my message for the last 10 years until 2019. Now, I begin to question the methodology of Tholons, the data gathering, and who is providing them the data,” said Monchito Ibrahim, executive adviser to the DICT Secretary.
But despite the slight drop in the list, Ibrahim said Cebu “is doing very well.”
He advised though that the city not rest on its laurels, as other cities are also moving up faster.
Like Ibrahim, de Luzuriaga said the ranking has no adverse effect for Cebu and the Philippines.
“I don’t think it has adversely affected the viability of Cebu and the Philippines because we did not make this industry overnight. We’ve been consistently delivering the goods for a lot of multinational companies within the IT-business process management sector for the past decade or so,” said de Luzuriaga.
But he quickly noted that Cebu should be concerned about its ranking because failure to improve the level and pace of digital transformation and innovation could further drag the city’s ranking to the bottom.
“The Philippines fared poorly because of the thing called digital investments,” said de Luzuriaga.
He said few venture capitalists and investors come into the country to fund startup projects.
He cited the country’s strong inclination for the service sector, the risk aversion of Filipinos, the high poverty level in the Philippines, and the lack of enabling conditions for innovators as some of the major reasons that hinder venture capitalists from exploiting the country’s potential in the startup sphere.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim promised that the DICT will be more proactive to help these advisory firms get the right data.
In partnership with industry stakeholders, the DICT has developed a portal called digitalcitiesPH that assesses cities according to their viability as a growth center.
“The portal contains all the data that are being required by these advisory firms. What is important is to make the available information in the portal (regularly) updated,” said Ibrahim.
The digitalcitiesPH portal features the profiles of cities and municipalities in the Philippines. It aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the city or municipality’s investment landscape, offering strategic insights for current and prospective investors and locators.
Each profile provides key information on talent, infrastructure, cost and business environment. The portal was developed by the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines, in partnership with the DICT and with the assistance of the NICP.
The one-day Transformation Summit gathered 275 top-level executives, managers and industry leaders in the IT-BPM industry. The summit organized by the Cebu IT-BPM Organization is anchored on the theme “Change By Choice.”