MANILA - Artificial intelligence and digital transformation can enhance the productivity of Filipino workers and help boost the economy despite posing a threat to low-skilled jobs, Microsoft country general manager Andres Ortola said Wednesday.
“If you think historically how the industrial revolution presented a threat to rural workers, those jobs were changed into industrial works and higher value type of work," Ortola said in an exclusive interview with ANC’s The Boss.
Ortola added he foresees a similar effect with the transition to digital technologies.
The Microsoft Philippines chief cited as an example the first Filipino speech-to-text translation machine powered by artificial intelligence. He said this can help boost “human capabilities” especially in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).
Ortola said the challenge for businesses and policymakers is to do digital transformation at the right pace and to keep innovating.
Aside from businesses, Philippine government agencies “have taken a remarkable” understanding of digital transformation, he said.
Microsoft Philippines has been working with the public sector such as the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) and the Department of Education to create an innovation-friendly environment, he said.
Companies, however, may “defer” some projects due to the coronavirus outbreak, Ortola said.
“We foresee that at some levels, some companies might choose to defer some projects in the short term. but that does not mean they will not actually pursue that transformation. And in times of uncertainty, our experience is that technology is the one factor that keeps companies moving forward,” Ortola said.
Tourism, hotels and aviation are some of the industries that have reported losses due to the global spread of COVID-19. Local tourism has lost around P14 billion in February due to the outbreak, officials have said.
But technology can help keep businesses running in times of disasters, Ortola said.
Microsoft in China, where Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak is located, uses digital means to keep the business running and to help other countries, he said.
The DepEd was also able to conduct cloud-based classes for students displaced by the Taal Volcano eruption last January, with the help of a platform it created with Microsoft, Ortola said.