MANILA - The use of artificial intelligence in the business process outsourcing will hit "harder" in the "next 3 to 5 years," Socioeconomic Planning Sec. Ernesto Pernia said Wednesday, as he urged the industry to upgrade the skills of its workers.
Voice-based services "is not not going to be necessary anymore when you have machines to do it," Pernia told ANC's Headstart.
"In the next 3-5 years it will really be hitting harder. It will be there, it will be a reality, this AI," he said.
According to gross domestic product data released on Tuesday, miscellaneous services, which includes BPO, grew 9.2 percent in 2017 from the previous year, compared to 19.8 percent from 2015 to 2016.
The BPO industry alone grew 12.3 percent in 2017 from 2016.
Pernia said BPO companies with the "old mode" of human interaction were unlikely to make future investments in the Philippines.
From call centers, the BPO sector must move to big data analytics, app development and related fields, Socioeconomic Planning Usec. Rosemarie Edillon said on Tuesday.
"We are seeing na nagpa-plateau na siya (We are seeing that its reaching a plateau). The way for it to grow much, much more, for it to diversify, is to grow to value added services," Edillon said.
The BPO industry is an economic lifeline for the Philippines. It employs about 1.15 million people and, along with remittances from overseas workers, remains one of the top 2 earners of foreign exchange.
AI, which combs through large troves of raw data to predict outcomes and recognize patterns, is expected to replace 40,000 to 50,000 "low-skilled" or process-driven BPO jobs in the next 5 years, according to the the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP).
Contact centers make up four-fifths of the Philippines' total BPO industry, which accounts for 12.6 percent of the global market for BPO, according to IBPAP.