Philippines Worried About Losing IT Manpower Edge

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is barely making ends meet with the low budget allocation for R&D, and the Philippines can quickly lose any competitive advantage in IT manpower to its more aggressive neighbors.

In his keynote speech during the De La Salle University Computer Conference 99, deputy executive director Alexander Lim of the Philippine Council for Advanced Science and Technology Research and Development (PCASTRD) warned that the international reputation gained by Filipinos in IT-related fields will soon diminish if it is not properly managed, stressing that bigger government funding and support must be put in place.

A study last year showed that the Philippines ranked close to India, the recognized IT leader in Asia, in terms of quality, cost, and availability of skilled labor, he said.

"With 1.0 being the highest possible score and 10 as the lowest, India on top rates 2.0 while the Philippines comes second at 2.63," Lim said. "We also come second to India in the amount of software products we export abroad."

With such conditions, the Philippines is a preferred site among investors.

However, this may not be the case for long considering that Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Myanmar are getting serious about IT, he added.

Lim also decried the current emphasis on agriculture, saying that "no country will get rich on agriculture, especially with land area for farming decreasing every year."

To ensure sustainable development, Lim said, IT advocates in the government need to push for an increase in the R&D budget, to 0.4 percent of the gross national product (GNP), or double the amount recommended for developing nations.

"We believe in people empowerment through IT knowledge. The information superhighway has given us a fair chance of developing our knowledge base with those who have already access to them, enabling developing nations to compete economically worldwide," Lim said.

Lim told Computerworld that the PCASTRD under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) last year suffered a 7 percent budget slash, making it more difficult for the DOST to finance R&D efforts in schools and other institutions.

To maximize existing resources, the DOST focuses on tapping the R&D expertise of established schools and promotes collaboration among IT researchers under DOST's Project Compete. The project aims to strengthen different areas of science and technology in the country.

Under this project, the DOST will launch the Virtual Center for Technological Innovation this month, which will provide IT researchers in schools and other organizations the needed facilities for their research proposals.

Though the DOST has already supported schools in research undertakings, Lim said, the new focus is on partnerships between the government, industry and the academe.

"Silicon Valley started through the collaboration of research and findings among the educational sector. We want to apply that concept in the Philippines."

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