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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Mongaya: PH e-commerce and start-up roadmaps

THREE developments are unfolding in the e-commerce and start-up fronts in the Philippines. I find these important because most of today’s global business leaders emerged from the tech sector and start-up communities.

The emergence of successful tech-businesses and giant conferences in Singapore and other urban centers in Asean give us a sense that the Philippines is playing catch-up in a world of fast-growing global and regional businesses.

While we pride ourselves in the highly successful business outsourcing industry in the Philippines, BPOs are more into hiring and employing our young ICT-savvy youth. E-commerce and start-ups are more into spawning Filipino-owned tech-based businesses, something like the next Facebook.

I believe it is not too late for the Philippines. A growing community has taken the initiative through the years. I personally know of former Sun.Star people availing themselves of early retirement to spend more time in developing ICT projects.

We–the private and public sectors–just have to get our acts together. Within this context, that I find the following significant.

One, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has embarked on a consultation process starting last December for the Philippine E-commerce Roadmap 2015-2020. A draft of the roadmap will be discussed during a consultative meeting this afternoon at Parklane Hotel.

Two, Sen. Bam Aquino will conduct the pilot consultation/workshop on the Start-up Bill this Friday afternoon, July 10, 2015, at the UPCEBUinIT, UP Cebu campus, in partnership with CEDF-IT, UP TBI and DTI.

Three, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in coordination with the Philippine start-ups community will finalize the Philippine Start-up Roadmap this Aug. 20-21 during the Geeks on a Beach (GOAB) conference in Boracay.

I was aware of the start-up roadmap discussions vis-à-vis the DOST when the matter was first brought up in a meeting with DOST’s Mon Ibrahim during the first GOAB conference in Boracay last 2013. The process continued during GOAB 2 in Cebu and is expected to take center stage in Boracay this August.

Offhand, one basic concern the roadmaps and legislative agenda should address is the Philippine Internet infrastructure that pales compared with our Asean neighbors. If we need to spawn thousands of start-ups, our Internet should compete in terms of speed, reliability and price.

Another concern is the lack of incentives for setting up ICT businesses in the country. Our economic policymakers are more into making it easy for foreign investments to come to our shores. But all kinds of taxes and regulations are being imposed on home-grown tech businesses.

Not all top government posts are populated by tech-challenged folk who rely on their children, even their apos, for help in opening and sending e-mails. But I think there is something wrong when instead of studying how new business models like Uber could help us, our transportation officials immediately see potential franchise violators.

Finally, while I find the above-mentioned developments encouraging, our efforts could have been more coordinated and strategic if Malacañang elevated ICT into a separate department years ago.

***

I find it significant that among the supposed 2016 presidentiables, DILG Secretary Mar Roxas was involved during the early days of ICT in the Philippines. He was co-chairman of ITECC, or the Information Technology E-Commerce Council, in 2000. I also remember Roxas as the keynote speaker during the 2001 Cebu IT Summit. That conference saw the formation of the country’s first ICT council now known as CEDF-IT.

***

While social media and the blogging community in the US played important roles in the 2008 victory of President Obama, their counterparts in the Philippines are expected to become major players only this 2016.

Well yes, the Samar group of the P-Noy camp made extensive use of ICT tools during the 2010 presidential run. But Internet use in the archipelago then pales when compared today. The Facebook group Maghisgot Kita’g Politika, Bay, for instance, now has an audience of some 10,000 Netizens interested in participating in political discussions about Cebu and the Philippines. As one of the group’s admin, I find myself at the center of lively discussions that go unruly and virulent at times, among supporters of various political camps.

More than the debates on national politicians however, the ones on local personalities and issues like Tommy’s take on the SRP sale and Mayor Rama’s love life are livelier. I even have to delete a post to heed some objections.
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