IT parks a channel to New Economy growth

Philippines' IT parks can channel the country's superiority in knowledge jobs to the development of a world competitive New Economy.
Written by Larry Loh, Contributor

Philippines' IT parks can channel the country's superiority in knowledge jobs to the development of a world competitive New Economy, fueled by local and international IT entrepreneurs.

MANILA 25 July 2000 - "On account of its IT human resources alone, the Philippines stands to gain the most from the Internet revolution. But to make that connection to real growth, we have to make our talented IT professionals work for the local economy instead of migrating abroad," said Kingson Sian, Senior vice president of CyberPark developer Megaworld Corporation.

Sian cited the Philippines' top ranking in the "knowledge job" category of a competitiveness index, done by leading American IT research and consulting firm Meta Group, which maps the technological vitality of 47 nations based on digital economic indicators. The other competitiveness categories are technological innovation, degree of transformation to a digital economy, economic dynamism and globalization.

The CyberPark executive noted that the Philippines can experience real IT driven economic growth based on its ability to excel as well in the other categories.

"Now that we have the mechanism in place, like the CyberPark, to replicate such spawning grounds for technological advancement like the Silicon Valley in the US, we can get started right away on translating our manpower superiority to real economic power."

He said that IT locators, many of them foreign owned, which have established themselves in the Eastwood City CyberPark, the country's first IT special economic zone, have consistently cited the country's highly skilled IT human resources as one of the top reasons for their choice of the Philippines as an operations base.

The CyberPark expects to create 17,000 IT-related jobs within the next five to seven years.

The CyberPark is now home to more than 20 IT-based companies including Citibank N.A., Barnes and Noble subsidiary Electronic Publishing Ventures, IBM Philippines, ETelecare International, Inc. (call center), anti-virus software provider Trend Micro, Inc. and web service provider Asia Online.

These companies have largely tapped into the local pool of IT engineers and managers for their manpower requirements. "We are starting the trend for a reverse brain drain in IT by giving an attractive employment alternative to our world-class IT professionals who would otherwise enrich the IT industries of other countries with their talents," Sian said.

Aside from keeping the country's IT brain trust here, the Philippines will also do well to encourage its talented IT workers to become entrepreneurs, Sian said. He observed that local entrepreneurial activities are an important driving force among the countries which led in the other technological competitiveness categories.

As part of its strategy to invest more in IT and promote entrepreneurship in the industry, Megaworld is spearheading a venture capital fund for promising local IT ventures.

It is also coinvesting in an IT graduate school, the Asian Center for Information Technology (ACIT), at the CyberPark with the University of Asia and the Pacific.

"We envision ACIT to help us maintain our lead in knowledge jobs by providing an advance level of training to our professionals and those from other countries," he added. A leading IT learning institution from the US will provide technical support to ACIT.

With the Electronic Commerce Law (R.A. 8792) now ready for implementation, Sian said that the country now has the fundamental framework to become highly competitive in all the other areas where the economy interacts with technology.

The US led in overall technological competitiveness, topping the globalization and transformation to a digital economy categories. Components of globalization include the export of goods and commercial services, overseas investment flows, investment in overseas stock and the absence of import barriers.

Transformation to a digital economy refers to the degree of Internet connectivity, development of e-commerce, telecommunication investments, computer usage and computer power.

Japan ranked first in technological innovation while Finland is first in economic dynamism. Technological innovation is measured by the patents issued, research and development (R&D) expenditures and the number of R&D personnel.

Economic dynamism is calculated by the level of productivity, worker motivation, process management skills, entrepreneurship, corporate financial health and availability of venture capital.

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