2022 is election year, but who will emerge victorious?

Today, let me tell you about the real victors in Visayas. Information and communications technology (ICT) champions and advocates in the Visayas gathered on November 29, 2012, or almost 10 years ago today in Iloilo City for what is now known as the first Visayas ICT Cluster Organization (Victor) Conference.

Various ICT Councils from Regions 6 (Western Visayas), 7 (Central Visayas), and 8 (Eastern Visayas), which are affiliated with the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines (NICP), came together to discuss strategies, forge partnerships, and harness collaboration to build a competitive investment ecosystem for ICT jobs and opportunities.

Historical is a decade-year-old manifesto declaring the ICT councils' commitment to actively and consistently work together to sustain, support and improve the readiness and competitiveness of the whole Visayas in ICT and ICT-enabled industries. The manifesto also calls for their respective regional development councils to support the same.

These councils composed of academe, government and industry have been working in collaboration with each other since 2008 under the banner of the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines (NICP), a network of ICT councils in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao that has the goal of developing a “Smarter Countryside” to ensure that the growth of ICT and ICT-enabled industries spread to other cities and provinces outside of Metro Manila. This collaboration and good working relationship are anchored in the participation of the national government agencies, local government, academe and human resource or talent development sector as well as the private or business sector.

The close collaboration of these ICT councils along with their respective stakeholders has proved to be beneficial in raising the potential of the Visayas for more jobs, revenues, investments and opportunities driven by ICT and ICT-enabled sectors. By coming together, it is the desire of the ICT councils along with their respective stakeholders in their cities, provinces and regions to solidify the collaborative efforts, leading to the harmonization of initiatives of the whole Visayas, the harnessing of key players to ensure that programs and projects are well coordinated hence effectively implemented, and the development of a unified collective stand on various issues affecting the ICT industry in the Visayas.

The commitments covered five areas such as infrastructure, talent development, marketing and promotions, business environment and organizational structure.

In infrastructure, the ICT councils committed to explore solutions that will reduce electricity rates and ensure efficient infrastructure to enhance and sustain the positive business ecosystem for all the Visayas regions, and more particularly to formally write a letter to the Department of Energy (DOE) regarding the matter.

In talent development, the councils committed to helping develop and undertake talent development programs and other related programs to improve the quality and quantity of human resource of the Visayas regions. Among the action plans was to request the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) to increase the allocation of bridging courses for call center training, software development, creative outsourcing, financial and accounting, train-the-teacher (T3), and other trainings related to ICT and ICT-enabled industries; as well as to develop programs that is responsive countryside so that public funds are equitably distributed. The ICT councils also committed to request the higher education institutions (HEIs), technical vocational institutes (TVIs) and local government units (LGUs) to develop, offer, equip, and deliver the desired results training programs that specifically address the talent development to work with industry associations concerns of the Visayas.

Another step was to request the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) to fast track the implementation of Service Management Program (SMP) tracks in the Visayas, as well as to request Department of Education (DepEd) for direct involvement and collaboration in the ICT programs in the various ICT Councils in the Visayas; to encourage collaboration and conduct dialogue with professional associations, such as nurses, accountants, engineers, for talent development; as well as to formally encourage the ICT stakeholders to prepare and conduct a specific dialogue with pertinent government agencies and other human resource stakeholders and professional organizations in the Visayas.

For marketing and promotions, Victor paved the way for ICT councils to work together to promote Visayas as a global ICT destination and to collectively request the ICT Office then under the Department of Science and Technology, and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to develop marketing and promotion programs that will project a more unified and stronger Visayas as a global ICT cluster.

For business environment, Victor aimed to help improve our business environment to work hand in hand with local governments and to request the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to assist the ICT councils in undertaking regular consultations and dialogues with local government officials to ensure the effectiveness of ICT programs developed under this resolution; encourage LGUs in the Visayas to design incentives and implement policies and programs to attract ICT and other investment; encourage LGUs to develop investment and incentives programs for local MSME, ICT entrepreneurs, and start-up companies; and request DOST to support the creation of Technology Business Incubation for Visayas; for organizational structure, the councils agreed to cooperate with local institutions to enhance and realize our common goals and aspirations to generate jobs and investments for our respective regions. As ICT councils, they will formally request the Regional Development Councils 6, 7 and 8 to reconsider ICT councils as private sector representative members of the RDC; and undertake to become members of our local investment and business committees for investments and to apply for accreditation to our local development councils.

For me, the Visayas ICT councils, after 10 years, have emerged as victors.