Despite the fact that the IT and e-services sector contributes billions of revenues to the local economy--the semiconductor sub-sector is still the largest export earner for the country--I have yet to hear anyone from the current crop of presidential candidates for this year's national elections talk about their actual plans for this vital industry.
I know three of the guys--Noynoy Aquino, Richard Gordon, and Gibo Teodoro--have mentioned a thing or two about the local IT industry in their campaign sorties, but these are merely token references.
From my observation, the preferred topics among candidates are eradicating poverty and corruption in the government. Well, these are good campaign lines but they're nothing but motherhood statements.
If there's a segment of the economy that can readily and really help the country get out of the rut, it's the IT and e-services sector.
The BPO industry, for one, has provided work for thousands of young graduates who would have been jobless if not for the call centers that sprouted all over the country in the past few years. The sheer number of IT-literate workforce available here has made the Philippines among the world's leading outsourcing destinations.
We can't keep harking back on the past when the country was still ahead of its regional peers in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors. It's a sad reality, but we've got to move on and create our niche in this knowledge-driven global economy.
The success story of Ireland, and to some extent India, is a real proof that IT could be a powerful catalyst in the transformation of a nation. From a country once wracked by criminality and various sorts of epidemics, Ireland has risen to the top due to its masterful use of IT as vital cog of its economy. And we all know what has happened to India, whose outsourcing prowess has become the envy of the world.
This is the kind of platform that I want to hear from the roll of "presidentiables" now vying for our votes. Unfortunately, even if we are holding the first automated elections in our history, it seems the strategic role of technology has been grossly overlooked, with candidates still stuck in old-world mindset and rhetoric when it comes to the economy.
But, interestingly, most of the presidential aspirants are making full use of Internet technologies in running their campaigns. Obviously, they've taken inspiration from Barack Obama who was propelled to the U.S. presidency with the skillful use of Web tools such as social networks and blogs.
The politicos are trying to duplicate that here. But, without a concrete and meaningful plan as to how they will bring the country in the digital age, it remains an empty message.
I was told that this development happened last August 2009, but it's only now that I've been informed that Joaquin "Jajo" Quintos, former country general manager of IBM Philippines, has put up a new call center with his business associates called Prople Inc., which he now heads as president and CEO.