Internet-Based Jobs, Where DoST Can Do Better

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MANILA: On Facebook, last Wednesday, 18 November 2015, I invited the readers to consider my essay "For A 1st World Philippines, Virtual Professionals Need The Help Of Congress" in my blog Frank A Hilario (blogspot.com). I proposed that Congress pass a law to allot yearly a minimum of P10 Billion to provide loans for those who would like to employ themselves in a virtual career but don't have readily available cash to purchase a laptop, printer and have a WiFi connection installed at home. I computed that with a modest monthly earning of $500, easily 200,000 virtual pros can earn $1.5 Billion a year.

Also on Facebook, I just learned about an hour ago today, Saturday 21 November 2015, that the Department of Science & Technology (DoST) has an Information & Communications Technology (ICT) Office and that the ICT has a program that in 2016 "aims to generate 500,000 freelance jobs for Filipinos in the countryside via different online platforms" (Emmie Abadilla, 10 August 2015, mb.com.ph). This is the DoST's Rural Impact Sourcing Program with which, Emmy Lou V Delfin says, it "expects to turn out more career opportunities for socio-economically disadvantaged areas in the country." Delfin is the Program Manager of the ICT Office's e-Innovation Group.

The 280-word Manila Bulletin story, including title, does not mention any of the following terms: virtual careers, virtual professionals, virtual assistants, but I know freelance jobs refers to them. Even the title of the program does not reflect the fact that it is Internet-based: Rural Impact Sourcing Program. I don't know why the DoST is avoiding the use of those terms, each of which immediately tells you it has something to do with the Internet (virtual), while freelance jobs can be anything with anybody, including those near you.

As a teacher and a writer, I know that how you look at something, your perspective, determines what you see, and who will listen to you. Freelance jobs, countryside, socio-economically disadvantaged areas – too vague, you have to be specific; that is the problem with long words.

"Since most ICT-based opportunities are not heavily dependent on location to provide career growth to every individual, we'd like to promote in-demand online jobs in high population but low employment areas." Finally, "online jobs." Since location of the worker is not important, she means their target online jobbers are in the rural areas.

And the DoST is targeting $18 Billion within this year as revenue from its Information Technology Business Process Management (IT-BPM) hubs. More such hubs will be set up in Baguio City, Santa Rosa in Laguna, Bacolod City and Iloilo City in the Visayas.

Not BPO but BPM? From Wikipedia:

Business Process Management (BPM) is a disciplined approach to identify, design, execute, document, measure, monitor, and control both automated and non-automated business processes to achieve consistent, targeted results aligned with an organization’s strategic goals. BPM involves the deliberate, collaborative and increasingly technology-aided definition, improvement, innovation, and management of end-to-end business processes that drive business results, create value, and enable an organization to meet its business objectives with more agility.

Whatever. I understand that Business Process Management (BPM) has replaced Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) as the preferred term, to indicate that the industry is "a full-service provider rather than an industry that plays only in the lower end of the services spectrum" (nasscom.in).

Now, DoST Secretary Mario Montejo is saying that with BPM the Philippines is expecting to create 1.3 million jobs and generate $25 Billion by 2016 (Jeannette I Andrade, 17 October 2015, business.inquirer.net).

I rather think the Philippines can achieve those targets; in fact, I believe we can achieve double those targets. But we have to remember that the target countryside:

(1)     encourages Internet entertainment, not entrepreneurship.

(2)     is hardly laptop-conscious.

I myself have seen those. In the Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, the Bicol Region, computers are for kids (and kids at heart) who are more interested in playing games than attending classes or educating themselves. In my own sleepy hometown of Asingan in Pangasinan, at one time there were 10 Internet cafes all dedicated to entertainment, not education. The players have changed, but the game plays on.

Assuming satisfactory Internet connectivity in the countryside, I have not seen signs of laptop-consciousness in the last 2 years of our visits to many towns in La Union and Pangasinan as consultants of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in its extension project. Yes, the offices of the DAR cooperatives have computers and are connected to the Web, but they are hardly used. In the city and in the town proper, there are very few Internet cafes. A handful of the professionals we have met have laptops, because they know the value of the Internet, but that's about all.

Why am I using the laptop and not the desktop personal computer as my gauge of the Internet awareness of people and their willingness or capacity to buy? Because if you have a laptop, I'm sure you'll bring it anywhere, not the least reason being that it's a status symbol.

And why am I using Asingan as my town of choice in illustrating online awareness? Because Asingan is the intellectual capital of Pangasinan, if not of Central Luzon. My town has produced 1 Philippine President, 1 Senator, several Representatives, 1 Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff, 1 Ambassador, 1 Governor, 1 Vice Governor, and a handful of outstanding & original journalists. Asingan also produced the very 1st CPA #1 topnotcher. My alma mater, Rizal Junior College (HS Dept) used to be #1 in Pangasinan.

If you look at the many new houses in my hometown, you will know that one or two of the children work or have worked overseas and, therefore, can afford a laptop if they set their mind to it. Now, Asingan has nobody working as a virtual career professional. I am not; my son Jomar is, but he doesn't live here anymore. (You can ask him more about virtual careers, jomarhilario.com. He has written a book by the way, VIRTUAL CAREERS, which is excellent if you want to dig deeper into the business.)

The DoST is dead set on the rural areas. How about a parallel, or an even bigger program targeting the big cities and the university towns where many people would be like ducks taking to the water? The would-be virtual professionals need not only training and technical assistance but financial assistance in the matter of setting up at home an office that can run all day and filter off unnecessary noise.

I say our bigger BPM hope lies with the knowledge-conscious cities and towns in Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao. These are the ones who know the value of the English language, our ticket to Asian dominance. At the end of the Manila meeting of APEC, Executive Director Alan Bollard "describes the services sector as the future of Asia Pacific" (Chris Schnabel, 20 November 2015, rappler.com). Precisely. That's where we want the Philippines to be: at the top.

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