Philippine Competitive Advantage

ICT Commissioner Dondi Mapa cites two competitive advantages of the Philippines.

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Mike Abundo chats with ICT Commissioner Dondi Mapa and posts it in his Information Narcosis podcast.

Update #1 (Dec 17, 2005): Mike Abundo posts "Comments on Dondi Chat" -- Mike, the "more broadband choices" point refers to Filipinos staying connected with the world via the internet, and not to the issue of internet literacy (internet literates posting on behalf of internet illiterates).

Even if we have all these submarine cables, if I subscribe to only one DSL provider and my DSL connection goes down, I'm offline (unless there's an internet cafe nearby or the work I need to do can be done via dial-up). [See MLQ3's The DSL Disaster]

We can't really compare internet literacy with television literacy. Consumers of the latter are passive, while those of the former are more "interactively fidgety". Besides, we still have a lot of television and radio "illiterates" today.

And going back to the 11.8 million internet literates, what percent is blogging? Less than half a percent? No, even if internet connection costs dropped to zero, computers magically appeared in every home, and every Filipino suddenly became internet literate, you still won't see a surge in the blogging population.

Similar to the case of online forums or discussion boards, there are lots of lurkers and very few posters.

Here are the competitive advantages of the Philippines, according to Comm. Mapa (who has a "1 Million Jobs" blog at

1. Robust telecom infrastructure - the $10 billion fiber optic high-speed digital network which spans the Philippines is connected with the rest of the world via six submarine cables and five satellite earth stations. The redundant connections help ensure that the Philippines will be online 24x7.

2. Human capital - skills of Filipinos, knowledge of English, ability to work while those in the West are asleep (because of differences in time zones).

Comment: The telecom infrastructure works if the Pinoy internet users (or knowledge workers/managers) are subscribers of several internet service providers. Otherwise, when their DSL connection goes down, that's it.

What amount of business can we expect?

Customer Contact (call centers, email handling, online chat) - $800 million
BPO (Content transformation, litigation/accounting/HR support) - $500 million
Software Development - $200 milloion
Animation - $50 million
Medical Transcription - $50 million
Engineering and Design - $50 million

On internet literacy and the digital divide

The Philippine government aims to establish a community e-center in each municipality. People in those areas will take classes to help them use the internet, and to find out where to get information that is useful to them. For example, farmers will be taught where to find info about the weather, planting techniques, and the like.

Comm. Mapa also mentioned that Maguindanao is some kind of success story, but I'll see if I can find links to that story online.

At any rate, he also talks about government e-services, such as the ability to get your birth certificate online.

Mike Abundo wondered when the 11.8 million Filipinos on the internet will enter the blogosphere, and Comm. Mapa said that just like email, it will take a while.

While promoting the concept of the Philippines as a cyberservices corridor, Comm. Mapa talked about an ICT Blueprint to help companies make productive use of ICT (Information and Communication Technology).

I'll adapt what he said:

Step 1: Develop awareness
Step 2: Develop a plan
Step 3: Find sources of funds
Step 4: Select the right partner
Step 5: Overcome your fear of cutting-over

My take? It appears that they're doing it in reverse: TCI instead of ICT.

To give information to farmers, they don't need an e-center first. They need the information, first. The information can be in the form of printed materials and good old fashioned lectures. Get trainors to interact with farmers and explain to them planting techniques, marketing skills, and globalization concepts.

If, after getting the information, the farmers want (or even have the time) for communication and technology, then let them learn. Otherwise, get hold of those already experienced in Communication and Technology to help these farmers.

Let others register the domain names, set-up the web hosting, build the content management systems, take digital photos of our local products, copywrite on the web, engage in search engine optimization and internet marketing, develop email autoresponder follow-up systems, program online payment systems, update blogs and perhaps launch podcasts.

Do the techies have time to farm? Do the farmers have time to be techies? Do the marketing wizards want to learn HTML?

People have different roles and different skills. Get them together, and help them work with one another. Give them the information first. Then, if ever they decide to broaden their skills, provide the communication and the technology.

Here's a story...

Ate Bernie sells puto pao. She does not have a computer, much less access to the internet. A friend who's a techie blogs about Ate Bernie and her products, and posts online her telephone number. A customer surfs on the web, finds the info about Ate Bernie and her puto pao and contacts her via the phone. They get together and a business deal is made.

Is that e-commerce? Even if the seller knows nothing about the internet?

That's the power of ICT and not TCI. Think about it.

[ First posted on 12/13/2005 by Manuel Viloria ]

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