While the NBN (national broadband network) scandal continues to wreck havoc on the national psyche, with the uninterrupted coverage of the issue by the local media, the Philippines' tech community now seems on a virtual standstill.
The local IT industry is paying extra attention not only because the controversial project is IT-related, but also because the alleged whistleblower, Rodolfo Noel "Jun" Lozada Jr., is also a hardcore tech guy.
While this turmoil could serve as an indication that democracy is vibrant-–and noisy--in this country, it has unfortunately relegated other things in the background.
For instance, the annual e-Services exhibit, the country's biggest outsourcing conference, came and went without much fanfare. Even during the opening of the event, the talk was about the Senate hearing on the NBN issue that was held on that same day.
As a result, the e-Services awards which were meant to honor IT entrepreneurship in the country, was hardly noticed by those who regularly follow the developments in the industry.
However, I was glad to see during my visit at the exhibit on Feb. 11 that "small" organizations are making things happen. I was particularly smitten by a group called PhilCall, an association of call centers in the country which members have 200 seats or less.
I asked the group's head, whose name I can't recall right now, why PhilCall was established when there was already an existing group of established call centers based in the Philippines.
Her answer was simple: her association's Filipino-owned call center members have different needs compared with those from the Contact Centers Association of the Philippines (CCAP), the other group, which composed mostly of large US-based call center operators.
"There are a lot of small companies in the United States which only requirements are 100 seats or less. So we thought of organizing ourselves to target this market which the big players are not serving," she told me.
The executive pointed out that her group is not competing with CCAP, which target market is vastly different from PhilCall. "When we attend events organized by CCAP, it is hard to identify with their goals because they're made up of really big call centers."
Also at the e-Services conference, I got a glimpse of "next-wave cities"--small urban areas in the countryside that are being propped up by the government to serve as alternative IT hubs to saturated sites, such as Metro Manila and Cebu City.
Lastly, I recently had the chance to attend a meeting of the Philippine Internet Commerce Society (PICS), which members are composed of local Web start-ups that trade mostly Filipino products and services.
The group, which has begun to attract some members who work for venture capital investors, gather regularly to network and share tips on how to grow their businesses mainly through technology. Who knows, someone in this setup might end up hitting the big time and probably becoming the next eBay or Amazon.
So there. The NBN is not the only development worth following in the local industry.
And yes, small things are starting to make a big difference.