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.