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Technology can make the Philippines a hub in the region

The Philippines can become a pivotal player in global technology and innovation if it invests more in education, provides a friendlier business environment, and improves on its foreign relations, especially to leading tech nations, according to a group of Israeli companies.

According to a recent report, the Israel Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ICCP) recognises that the country has gone far in terms of adopting technological advancements due to its tech-savvy young population.

The business-process outsourcing (BPO) industry, for instance, brings a lot of technology, knowledge and opportunities that people are now capitalising on.

While the Philippines still has a lot to learn from Israel in order to follow in its footstep and become one of the tech centres worldwide, it was suggested that both the public and private sectors invest in quality education.

It starts with education. There is an urgent need to work on a long-term plan and spending more to improve the education system in preparation for a very technical or technological time ahead.

The curriculum needs to be updated to reflect technology.

Government should allow foreign ownership on businesses that are education-related to bring in external knowledge that is most relevant and up-to-date with international standards.

Higher education institutions should be given incentives and a strong mandate to hasten the curriculum upgrade in preparation for artificial intelligence (AI) and for higher technology adaptation in the country.

Emphasis was given on giving equal footing to technology solutions providers from here and abroad. It is about striking a balance.

Given the good trade relations between the Philippines and Israel, both countries can drive technology and innovation in various industries, most especially in agritech.

Even though a lot of the arable lands in Asia are in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is not making use of it.

In contrast to Israel that leveraged on technology to become a big producer and exporter of citrus products at present, as well as the third provider of flowers to the European Union after Nigeria and the Netherlands.

A country that is half desert was able to achieve that because it pointed its efforts on technology and did it properly.

Bringing in more technologies that allow more to be done with less effort or resources, but give more yield or produce can make the Philippines a hub for the region, not just to be an importer but to become an exporter.

It is noted that the Philippine government has asked the help of Israel, through its innovation agency, to implement an initiative to develop local industries.

Together with manufacturing and services, agriculture is another sector that the Inclusive Innovation Industrial Strategy (i3S) of the national government is focused on to accelerate growth with the assistance of the Israel Innovation Authority.

The past few years saw the improving bilateral trade between the Philippines and Israel. In 2016 local goods exported to Israel grew by 23.6% to US$ 57.14 million, from US$ 46.23 million in 2015.

On the other hand, the import value of the Philippines from Israel increased by 27.32% from US$ 103.99 million to US$ 132.4 million during the two periods in review.

Formed in 2009, ICCP is an organisation of individuals and companies that share a common interest in the pursuit and encouragement of bilateral and investment opportunities between the Philippines and Israel. It has since grown to have 130 active members nationwide.

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