TO FUTURE-PROOF the Philippines’ business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, migrant workers and the electronics assembly sector, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has partnered with Silicon Valley-based venture capital (VC) provider Plug and Play to strengthen the resiliency of this sector against the threat of artificial intelligence (AI).
DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy signed on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023 a memorandum of agreement with Plug and Play to introduce the Horizon Philippines Program.
The program aims to establish a forward-looking strategy that not only recognizes the pivotal roles played by these respective industries but also envisions a resilient future for these pillars.
Plug and Play co-founder Jojo Flores said the program is a virtual platform for startups and investors to work together on a new product.
This initiative also catalyzes the growth of an intellectual property (IP)-based economy.
One of these products is the adoption and integration of Al into the IT-BPO (information technology-business process outsourcing) industry.
This sector contributes 25 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), fueling the nation’s employment generation, bolstering foreign exchange reserves, fostering technological innovation, and propelling overall economic expansion within the country.
Therefore, Flores said, protecting it from the threat of AI has to be accelerated.
GDP measures the value of goods and services produced within an economy’s borders during a given period.
“In three years’ time, who’s to say that computers may replace the 1.7 million workers in the BPO industry? That big, that is also a $35 million industry for us that we need to protect,” Flores said.
He added that instead of waiting for this kind of product to emerge from the foreign market, the program will proactively support local talents from startup communities to create such products locally with the end-goal of creating an IP-based product.
These future products can be introduced to the market locally and eventually to the global market, thus sealing the future of the country’s service economy, Flores said.
It will also leverage the country’s services industry in terms of what it can offer to other foreign players including those tech giants.
In terms of funding, Flores said Plug and Play will rely not only on the funds coming from the government but more importantly on foreign direct investments coming from international investors.
He added that for the country to optimize the entry of funding for start-ups, it has to tell the Philippine start-up story to convince investors to pour money into the country.
For the DICT’s part, Uy said the government has no direct financial obligation to the Philippine start-up industry, but rather it provides the necessary support to create this ecosystem.
Uy said Plug and Play already has extensive experience in managing the startup ecosystem efficiently.