THE PHILIPPINES needs to invest more in enhanced educational programs, an open business ecosystem, and digital infrastructure to become a more competitive regional hub for information technology (IT) talent, according to experts.
Japanese technology firm Sansan, Inc. said that the Philippines is actively attracting and supporting global IT companies through its high-level IT education and a large pool of talented engineers.
“The Philippines has an opportunity to attract more foreign companies to set up tech hubs in the country that serve the wider ASEAN region, especially for software development and engineering talent,” said Sansan Executive Officer Fujikura Shigemoto.
“This will boost foreign direct investment into the country’s economy, supporting the government’s agenda,” he said in an e-mail interview.
The information technology-business process management (IT-BPM) industry saw an 8.4% growth with an additional 121,000 full-time employees (FTEs) out of the total number of 1.57 million FTEs in 2022, according to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).
The sector’s revenues increased to $32.5 billion in 2022 from $29.5 billion in 2021.
By this year, the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) sees the IT-BPM industry growing to about 1.7 million FTEs, with revenues reaching $35.9 billion.
Mr. Shigemoto noted that the country must increase access to quality education and training by targeting key areas of technology and entrepreneurship.
“This should include initiatives to partner with leading technology firms and educational institutions to provide enhanced educational opportunities and training programs,” he said.
IBPAP president Jack Madrid said a national talent upskilling program would help improve the IT-BPM workforce and ease the ‘talent crisis’ plaguing the sector.
Mr. Madrid told BusinessWorld in an e-mail that there is a need to form an IT-BPM services online talent hub, as well as establish early-stage interventions to improve the employability of senior high school and higher education institution graduates.
He also proposed raising the capacity for specialized degree courses to increase talent supply for the IT-BPM sector.
Moreover, Makati-based teach learning platform CloudSwyft Global Systems, Inc. has partnered with the education department alongside various schools last year to deploy its virtual laboratory access for the upskilling and employability of senior high school and college students.
Mr. Shigemoto also highlighted the need for the country’s business investments to open to technology and talent development. “[This includes] policies that encourage innovation, reward entrepreneurship, and reduce barriers to entry for tech startups,” he said.
In its 2023 review of the Philippines’ ecosystem for tech startups, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) recommended high-level actions such as conducting an annual review of key laws such as Republic Act (RA) 11337 or the Innovative Startup Act and RA 11293 or the Philippine Innovation Act. This also includes appointing startup champions to the National Innovation Council.
Programs and regulations must streamline requirements for grant programs, as well as create a co-financing scheme for the National Government to support local government in building ecosystems.
Suggested incentives for investors include creating a tax credit system for them, alongside reducing the need for foreign registration of startups to attract venture capital.
At the same time, the Philippines must continue to invest in digital infrastructure to aid competitiveness and attractiveness in the global scene.
“Prioritize those that will foster the development of technology talent such as high-speed broadband, telecom networks, and digital infrastructure,” Mr. Shigemoto said.
Overall, Mr. Shigemoto called for the Philippines to leverage its strategic location and promote itself as a regional hub for tech talent on the international stage.
“[Launch] more initiatives to attract leading technology firms and talent from other countries and to showcase the Philippines’ technology capabilities,” he said. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola