Silicon Valley vet wants more Filipino computer engineers with post-grad degrees


Dado Banatao

MANILA, Philippines—The lack of computer engineers with post-graduate degrees in the Philippines is holding back the development of the country’s information technology (IT) industry, which has the potential to contribute billions of dollars to the local economy.

According to Filipino Silicon Valley veteran Dado Banatao, the government needs to strengthen its education system to be able to capitalize on the opportunities for growth that the IT industry can provide.

“Attacking poverty is the only way to help the Philippine economy. We can do this through education,” said Banatao, who is considered one of the most successful IT professionals, if not the most successful, the country has every produced.

Banatao currently chairs the Philippine Development Foundation (PhilDev), which is a non-profit organization that focuses on building an ecosystem of science and technology-based entrepreneurship and innovation for social and economic development in the Philippines.

He also serves as managing partner at Tallwood VC, a California-based venture capital firm that invests in IT start-ups. The company manages about $600 million in funds.

Prior to his current post, Banatao founded several start-ups that invented technologies that could be found in most modern computers today.

Speaking at the PhilDev-sponsored forum entitled “Silicon Valley comes to the Philippines,” Banatao said local engineering schools, including his alma mater Mapua Institute of Technology, should produce more MS and PhD engineering degree holders.

He said Silicon Valley superstars Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Apple Inc.’s late founder Steve Jobs (a personal friend of Banatao)—all college dropouts—were exceptions to the rule. Success in the highly-competitive IT industry, Banatao said, could only be achieved with a highly trained, well-educated workforce.

“We lack expertise. We have not been producing masters in engineering and we are way behind the science curriculum,” Banatao said. “We have to start now because we are lacking in scholars,” he said.

At the same forum, Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo said the Aquino administration has laid down a road map aiming for a 10-fold increase the size of the local IT industry.

The industry earns $1 billion a year for the Philippine economy. While the figure may seem significant, this is only a fraction of the $11 billion the country earns from business process outsourcing (BPO) and the $20 billion Filipino families receive every year from migrant workers.

By 2020, Domingo said the country should have $10 billion in revenues from IT. He said this would be achieved through the further development of the country’s telecommunications infrastructure to give more Filipinos access to the Internet.

Domingo said strengthening the country’s educational framework would also be a key component of the plan, starting with the implementation of the K + 12 basic school system.

In a report released last month, the United Nations-led Broadband Commission for Digital Development said the IT industry contributed 0.32 percent to the Philippines’ annual gross domestic product.

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  • Ricky070

    People and everyone else has been clamoring for a reform in the education system in the Philippines but there doesn’t seem to be anything significant or praiseworthy being done right now.  I guess the government and the leaders are showing just how du_mb and stup_8d they are. This is an urgent issue that the country needs to address but no one seems to be tackling the issue in a meaningful way that could finally end the problem in the education system of the country.  Like every problem in the country, it will probably take an earthquake or a flood or a meteor hit on the capital manila to compel them to acknowledge that their is a problem that needed to be fixed. And even when they know there is a problem, there is an even bigger problem of compelling the government, our leaders and the people to do something about the problem.  The education system of the country will just be another problem like the infrastructure problem of the nation which has been crumbling and falling apart due to neglect for decades.  We know we have a problem but we seem to lack the will to do something about it.  Let the problem solved itself seems to be the philosophy of the country.   Nothing gets done, only rotting and decay ever happens. I am very disappointed with the country.

  • athenapallas

    We need more engineers and scientists; we don’t need any more lawyers . Though not all, lawyers tend to become unscrupulous, arrogant, corrupt, and the first ones to twist the law just to win and get away with whatever it is they want to get away with, especially when they become politicians and justices, that is why our third world country is so effed up and forever third world.

  • Seraphim

    K12 was a stupid idea to implement.  We’ve had very good graduates of all sorts from previous years.  It appears that our education system is dwindling not because of the short period of our education program, but more likely of the way the students are taught.  Looking for Post-grad degree holders is just stupid.  We have far more competitive undergrads who are very good with what they do that those that he’s looking for.

    Bill, Mark, and Steve are exception to the rule? This argument is just plainly stupid. 

    • tilney

      Your  assessment is wrong.Our basic education is short of two years.We are short changing Filipino children of  the correct number of years  they should stay in the school  :  12 years +Kindergarten especially  to public education  which poor families should be entitled for the free education from the  govt money.Industrial countries all have 12 years of education and those students who don’t  qualify to enter the university  or cannot afford or do not want to proceed to enter the university have the skills and qualifications to enter the workforce. 12 years of basic education is equivalent to 2nd year college.This will help students who do not have financial capability to proceed to university  to work after 12 years of basic education.

      I am a product of ten years of public school system in the 1970’s and got my engineering degree from the same school as Dado Banatao but the education is so basic compared what we have now which is so advance if I will compare what my children are now taking in their high school math. May be because of one inherent intelligence that I possessed that I was able to enter the said school.  

      Post graduate engineering degrees are  a must  to advance as industrial and IT  capable country and to be considered as a developed country not a third world country.. 

      Quality of basic education will improve once our government put  more money to education , this cannot be done overnight  but the mere fact that this govt has lay the agenda to proceed with K+12 is a good sign that this govt is  correcting the false notion that 10 years is more than enough which is wrong.

      My youngest 12 year old daughter is one of the 7th grade student of a catholic school and  I am happy that she will get the right level of basic education.

    • Handiong

      Before the implementation of the K+12 program this school year in public schools, the Philippines and Mongolia were the only countries in Asia that have a 10-year basic education course. How more stupid could that get? Well, it would have gotten more stupid if we did not shift to K+12 and Mongolia did.

      The K+12 program is not all about adding 2 more years to the basic education course. It is about changing the curriculum so that Grade 12 graduates will have sufficient skills that will make them ready for gainful employment. The old 10-year program merely prepared HS graduates to enter college. It’s only after graduating from college that they could qualify for jobs. So parents had to spend money for 14 years of education before their children could graduate with college degrees only to be employed as production workers or technicians in factories, or as call center agents. With the K+12 program, pre-collegiate graduates will have the necessary skills that will qualify them to be production workers, technicians, or call center agents, depending on what technical courses they will choose in Senior High School. It means the parents will only have to spend for 12 years, instead of 14 years, of education before their children can qualify for gainful jobs. Those who are more ambitious and have the mental capabilities,can go on to the universities to become Masters and PhDs in engineering and other fields, or study for the professions, like lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc.

      Is that stupid enough for you?

      Stop arguing from ignorance.  

    • Abraham Ortiz

       Kindergarten should be implemented instead of K-12 education because at younger age the tens were eager to learned and when they were at grade -1 they no longer hard to teach and were welling at all times.They only have to instill unto the minds of the young that they are there to study and they will be taught good values and the importance of education.

  • KurakotNaPinoy

    Mahal ang post grad tuition – even for the Developers who are being paid handsomely.

  • Pert Cabatana

    YES – exactly what we need. More scholarships for graduate and post-graduate studies and more funds for research .

  • blainz

    Another thing holding the country back is that state-sponsored science research is half-heartedly funded. It is research institutions that provide the real training ground for post-grad scientists and engineers. Weak research institutes mean the post-grads will jump immediately to the corporate sector, where they are employed to glorified marketing jobs or develop the next whitening soap.

    This country has a lot of brilliant minds, but we’re losing too many of them to neglect.

  • Cal_Reznick

    Education is a great way to fight poverty.

    Investing in PI engineering, science, and R&D is a great way to better the country. As a matter of fact, the former President FPGMA in 2007 initiated the most comprehensive program to benefit the field of engineering, science, and R&D with the ERDT Program which coincidentally enough Dado Banatao help spearhead.


  • macobex

    Paanong “fight poverty through education”, eh wala ngang pambayad pang-tuition?

    Kailangan kasi ng Education Loan system sa Pinas, yung gaya sa US. Yung loan na agad pang-matrikola, saka na problemahin ang pangbayad pag nakapagtapos at nakapagtrabaho na.

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