Rational Technology column for Feb 20, 2005
Manila -- It's an encouraging sign of recovery when we see a vibrant information technology trade show. Trade shows had all but died out in the aftermath of the DotCom Bust, mere shadows of their former selves. This year, though, we're seeing an IT trade show that's making a big splash. This is the eServices Philippines 2005, a two day event running from February 17 to 18 at the posh EDSA Shangri-La Hotel featuring CEO forums, breakout sessions on the outsourcing market, and hundreds of
participating companies eager to strut their stuff and impress potential customers.
And guess what? Dumaguete has a presence in this event.
On February 17, Team Dumaguete -- composed of DTI Provincial Director Javier Fortunato, Jr., TVB President Danah Fortunato, Foundation University Chairman Dean Sinco, DTI Staff Aracelli Maypa, and myself -- hosted several call center and business process outsourcing executives in a two-hour forum to review the "ICT Outlook for Dumaguete City and Oriental Negros" as a small breakout session. The forum was sponsored by Innove, Globe Telecom's data services arm. Although Governor George Arnaiz could not make it because of prior commitments as chairman of the
Regional Development Council, Negros Oriental Business Development Foundation board member Ernesto Quiamco, Dumaguete-transplanted Norwegian technopreneurs Rolf Reierskog and Sveintor Sigvaldsen, and call center pioneer Bob Baray were on hand to lend their support.
DTI Undersecretary Carissa Cruz gave the opening remarks, apprising the audience about her department's initiatives to bring more development outside of Metro Manila and Metro Cebu. She spoke in glowing terms about her experiences working with Dumaguete City. Undersecretary Cruz is the very model of the modern civil servant -- intelligent, driven, dynamic, and in-touch with the issues of modern technology -- and having her as an ally in our drive to bring ICT investments into Dumaguete is a significant plus.
Jong Fortunato then highlighted Dumaguete's key strengths in the outsourcing market. Key points raised were: (1) our unique status as a university town in the Philippines, thus assuring investors of a good supply of competent talent; (2) our telecommunications infrastructure with generous bandwidth allocations, owing to our position as a nexus for telco interconnections; (3) our abundant supply of geothermal power; (4) our lower cost of doing business; and (5) our quality of life.
The highlight of the forum, however, was Mr. Paul Hartley's presentation on his company's experiences in the province. Mr. Hartley is the Operations Director of SPI Publisher Services, which started its operations in Bacong in October 2004 and now employs over 80 well-trained Dumaguete locals to handle copyediting and typesetting for scientific and technical journals. The most notable of these journals is Science, a prestigious European publication for scientists.
Mr. Hartley related to the group the reasons why SPI chose to locate their services in Dumaguete. Foremost in this list were skills. Copyediting, contrary to images that may form in some people's minds as being rote boring work, actually involves a deep understanding of the nuances of the English language in both their American and European flavors. A visit to the universities of Dumaguete confirmed to them that the skills they were looking for were in this province. And while they were originally planning to base only their copyediting unit in Dumaguete, they ultimately
decided to bring their entire operations to the city to make use of the human resources available.
Other reasons Mr. Hartley cited mirrored the points that Jong Fortunato listed. And one other: that the local government organization and the community was very easy to work with.
Nevertheless, Mr. Hartley was not shy about pointing out some of our deficiencies as well. Notably, the number of people that outsourcing companies can employ remains woefully low. Being the first outsourcing company to set up in Dumaguete, this issue was not particularly worrisome to them, though this will be significant as more companies come in. Additionally, we lack experience in handling commercial enterprises and have a limited ability to support multiple enterprises.
These are issues that we will all have to face and adapt to if we are to be successful in our bid to become an e-services hub.
Two more presentations rounded out the forum: a telecommunications overview by Innove Network Head Robby Tolentino, and CICT Commissioner Dondi Mapa's review of the government's 10-point agenda for growth. As an added bonus, Commissioner Mapa revealed his ties to Dumaguete as a product of St. Paul's University.
So, in a nutshell, this was our showing at the eServices Philippines tradeshow. Other cities sent delegations to present their local software development services, clearly something we must do in the near future. But we were the only province accorded a slot as a breakout session. This shows that we are getting attention from the industry and the government.
Citizens, we are on the map. More work ahead; so let's get to it.