Philippines lays out AI industry road map

Bruce Rodriguez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 05 2021 07:37 PM

Philippines lays out AI industry road map 1
People working on desktop computers. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News file photo

MANILA – The Department of Trade and Industry on Wednesday launched the National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Roadmap which aims to make the country a regional hub for AI-based solutions and data analytics.

At the virtual launch of the industry roadmap, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said they expect the roadmap to improve the competitiveness of Philippine enterprises, and "engender more affordable, more accessible, and more bespoke public services—including disaster preparedness and management, education, and healthcare."

"Our country can also serve as a big data processing hub providing high-value data analytics and AI services to the world, and this can become our next higher value, higher-paying service-winner after the BPO industry," he added.

Based on a recent report by research firms, EDBI and Kearney, AI is seen boosting Southeast Asia's gross domestic product by up to $1 trillion by 2030. 

For the Philippines, the study estimates an economic gain of $92 billion or 12 percent of the country's GDP by 2030.

Likewise, a report by McKinsey revealed that cloud-based AI solutions could, "automate about 50% of the work activities performed in ASEAN’s four biggest economies," which includes the Philippines.

Lopez said the AI roadmap will provide guidance on the use of AI to boost the competitiveness of local industries, identify key R&D and technology application areas for investments, recommend linkages between government, industry, and academe, push for approaches to prepare the local workforce for the jobs of the future, and attract the biggest industries to invest in the country.

"For Philippine businesses and industries, AI technologies can reduce operational costs, increase efficiency, grow revenue, and improve customer experience. By deploying the right AI technology, businesses can save time and money by automating and optimizing routine processes and tasks," he explained.

Aside from benefiting large corporations, Lopez said, the roadmap will also be key to boost the country's micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME).

He explained, MSMEs can seek the services of the National Center for AI Research (N-CAIR), which is a private sector-led and market-driven organization that would be created under the roadmap.

"This is similar to having a third party consultant, having an AI consultant, for your own firm. You don't have to open your own AI team because as mentioned it's difficult and probably expensive to have an individual AI team for each company," Lopez added. "Because of the expertise of our advisers, we will also be having AI products, off the shelf, that MSMEs can purchase and definitely at lower costs and can be applied already in their operations."

The center is also seen helping the Philippines develop more experts and talents on AI and data analytics

Lopez said, they'll be inviting companies to invest in the center while they're also working on a partnership with government financial institutions like the Land Bank of the Philippines which can provide equity or loans to AI-based initiatives.

Some of the country's biggest conglomerates have also begun looking at AI and data analytics to improve operational efficiencies and boost profitability, especially in the increasingly digitized world brought about by the health crisis.

Former trade secretary Gregory Domingo, who's now senior adviser for the Philippines' biggest conglomerate SM Investments Corp., shared, the company has already been applying AI in its retail business.

"Some of the things we've done already is in profile targeting for promotions, for example. Those would be using analyzing certain things that would fit a particular customer so that when we send them messages that it will be more to their particular taste," Domingo said. "A lot of it as well is being done in the internal side."

Infrastructure conglomerate, Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC) is also taking steps to further digitalize its operations.

"From a group perspective, we're really looking at pushing for digitalization across all our operating entities. I think MPTC (Metro Pacific Tollways) has been doing that, they've hired a new CIO (Chief Information Officer), and he's really pushing for a lot of these data analytics to push for our customer experience," said June Cheryl Cabal-Revilla, MPIC chief finance officer.

Aside from the tollway business, its hospital group is also beefing up its telemedicine offerings while its logistics segment is developing an end-to-end digital solution for its clients.

Likewise, its power distribution arm, Meralco, is set to launch an application that would provide the company real-time information about its customers.

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