EXCLUSIVE: IT issues threaten to handicap SEA Games

Gigi Grande, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 06 2019 05:40 AM | Updated as of Nov 06 2019 11:38 AM

Tran Thi Yen Hoa of Vietnam stands next to a board featuring her record time during the 100-meters hurdles final in the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. Without a proper data systems infrastructure, there will be a lag posting runners' times. Adek Berry, AFP/file

MANILA (UPDATED) - Arnold Labadan has been "very worried" the last two weeks. The businessman from Butuan was recently appointed the “authorized representative” of a Filipino-Malaysian joint venture that was awarded a P388-million contract on October 11 to supply the Southeast Asian Games Information System or SEAGIS.

Labadan has put together an army of Information Technology (IT) specialists from the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to achieve in record time what usually takes a year to prepare. Time is short. The 30th Southeast Asian Games are set to open formally on November 30.

Lawyer Jarie Osias, spokesman of the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC), described the SEAGIS as a “one-stop shop” for scores, medal tally, player statistics, and other important data.

In addition, Labadan said, it is the job of his team to interface their software with timing and scoring equipment so that results can be delivered in real-time to anyone watching the Games live on television, on the web, or at competition venues.

This part of the project worries Labadan. “I know we are ready. We have the software. We can do our part. But what about the others?” he said.

“There is no network infrastructure, no connectivity, no cloud (at competition venues),” Labadan said. “The contract for that has not yet been awarded to anyone. Without connectivity, we can’t interface our software with the timing and scoring equipment.”

Labadan also lamented that many competition venues are not ready and some sports equipment have not arrived.

Janette Obiena, competition manager of the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association or PATAFA, said one of her biggest concerns right now is that the software that will enable results to be "seen" by audiences in real-time has not been “connected” to the actual timing and scoring equipment that will be used in the Games.

“Imagine watching the 100-meter (sprint),” said Obiena. “Typically, when the race is finished, you should see the results immediately on the scoreboard or on TV. But if the software and the equipment aren’t working together, you would not see the results right away. That could be a problem. People watching from all over the world will want to see the results immediately,” she said.

“Timing and scoring have to be delivered in real time. If not, that would be a disaster. We would lose face,” Labadan said.

Osias said PHISGOC has already asked for proposals from three network providers. “We expect the funds to be released by the Philippine Sports Commission next week. There will be no bidding, as this will fall under financial assistance. Internet connectivity will be activated in all competition and non-competition venues by November 15,” he said. 

If all goes as scheduled, Labadan and his team would have less than two weeks to conduct test events. “A test event is very important because it’s like a dry run. If you don’t conduct test events, how will you know if there are any problems that need to be fixed?”

L.C. Ting Construction and WSL-MSC, the Filipino-Malaysian joint venture that Labadan represents, has its work cut out.

But Labadan, who said he has business interests in mining, construction and shipping, is the first to admit he has no previous experience in IT or games management. He said he is working on this project “for love of country”.

As for L.C. Ting Construction, available data show it has been building roads, flood control projects, school buildings and classrooms since 2008. It bagged P7.3-billion worth of government projects in the past decade.

It is WSL-MSC that has been involved in games management for twenty years. Brandon Ching, chief executive officer of WSL, said their firm provided the information communication technology for the SEA Games held in Laos in 2009, in Indonesia in 2011, and in Malaysia in 2017. 

“We usually begin preparing one year or even two years ahead of the Games, in some cases just 6 months beforehand. But this year, in the Philippines, because of political reasons we are behind the usual schedule,” Ching told ABS-CBN over the phone from his office in Malaysia. 

WSL received a Notice of Award from the budget department’s Procurement Service just seven weeks before the Games.

Ching remained optimistic his team would pull through. “We have been working under pressure but we are working hand in hand with PHISGOC, the vendors and the infrastructure teams,” he said. “There is no cause for concern.”

Judging from Labadan’s tone, perhaps Ching can begin by convincing his own people in Manila.

 

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2019 SEA Games