THE information technology-business process management (IT-BPM) industry in Cebu has continued to see robust growth in 2019, as the sector establishes a stronger partnership with the academe.

Cebu IT-BPM Organization Foundation Inc. (CIB.O) managing director Wilfredo “Jun” Sa-a said IT companies have continued to grow and expand in Cebu, as the city tries to develop a more skilled workforce.

“Right now, we are fortunate that we see some growth,” Sa-a told SunStar Cebu. “What’s in demand are higher value services like coding, programming and artificial intelligence. In the academia, the involvement of senior high and BPO (business process outsourcing) companies with other schools having their own partners is some kind of a breakthrough as there is more openness to accept senior high in immersion.” Over the past years, the IT-BPM sector has transformed Cebu’s labor market, being one of today’s main job generators. The industry currently employs thousands of workers and is one of the main drivers to the local economy.

Leo Cipriano Urbiztondo Jr., director at the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Visayas Cluster 2, noted that more startups and IT-related organizations have become more engaged nowadays.

“The industry is growing. In fact, unlike before in Cebu, there are a lot of groups that created a whole ecosystem of the ICT industry. It includes the startups who would want to be in the startup scene,” he said.

“It is vibrant and there is engagement among stakeholders,” he added.

The academe sector must also work to keep up with the changing demands in the industry.

“You need to align because of the high demand of highly-skilled people so the academe should keep pace with the trend,” he said.

Cebu must continue to adopt innovation to make its IT-BPM industry globally competitive, he said, considering its dismal ranking in this year’s Top 100 Super Cities list by global consulting firm Tholons. Cebu’s ranking fell to 12th in 2019 from 11th in 2011.

“We really worked hard to come up and now that we are in the Industry 4.0, we have lacking points like machine learning. But we have been working on that, artificial intelligence, way back. But it hasn’t been given due attention by others. So now, the academe and industry are aligning. Aside from businesses, there are a lot of organizations working together in Cebu like CIB.O, city councils, Regional Development Council, among others,” he said.

Maria Elena Arbon, assistant director at the Department of Trade and Industry in Central Visayas, said they are working to increase the density of the number of startups.

“We are slowly but surely growing the sector. To do this we need to also grow the innovation ecosystem as well as the entrepreneurial capabilities of our existing and potential startups,” she said.

With the passage of two new laws, the Innovative Startup Bill and the Philippine Innovation Act, the agency is hopeful for more programs and support for startups.

“The sector and its communities have been very active this year as evidenced by so many events,” she said.

Aside from Cebu, the DTI is also now banking on other provinces for startup growth.

“We are also growing innovation ecosystem networks in Tagbilaran and Dumaguete so we also had Slingshots there which have been very well received. I feel our youth are on the lookout for other opportunities and employment so there is a high demand for these events,” she said.

Arbon said Cebu’s ecosystem is dynamic enough to support both employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.

“The reality is also that most of our youth also need to earn a living so employment and entrepreneurship are a very strong come-on which in itself is not bad as they also need to gain some experience before embarking on a startup journey,” she said.