What is Information Technology? Information technology or I.T. is a development that makes our lives easier. It makes it possible for us to see the world in a different manner. It also brings change in the way we live. James Martin, the author of The Wind Society said, “Most of the changes are changes for the better: better education, better news media, better forms of human communication, better entertainment, better medical responses, less pollution, less human drudgery. Less use of petroleum, more efficient industry, and better informed society with a rich texture of information services” (qtd. in Robins and Webster 68). I.T. also provides a network (the internet) wherein people in all parts of the globe can interact. Bill Gates, Microsoft creator and owner, pointed out in his book The Road Ahead, that “The network will draw us together, if that’s what we choose, or let us scatter ourselves into a million mediated communities. Above all, and in countless new ways, the information highway will give us choices that can put us in touch with entertainment, information, and each other”(qtd. in Robins and Webster 5).
To define further, I.T. makes communication, entertainment, market, and work more advance, more efficient and readily accessible. It includes all electronic devices to gather, communicate, process, display, and store information. An example of such device is the mobile or cellular phone. It is small, handy, easy to use and very efficient in terms of communication. Such innovations are provided by I.T. that is why it plays an important role in the development of one country. According to Carol Traver, Kenneth and Jane Laudon, authors of the book Information Technology: Concepts and Issues, I.T. plays an important role in the businesses and social organizations because, it allows greater productivity, efficient outputs, faster labor and higher production quality. In addition, I.T. also offers a wide variety of jobs such as web and multimedia designing, programming and other computer based work (11).
The Philippines has the potential to be one of the worldwide leaders in I.T. but because of insufficient I.T. education, lack of small-scale entrepreneurs, and poor governance, the I.T. in the country will not develop. The Philippines uses I.T. as one if its instrument for national developments. Its strength comes from its labor force, education, entrepreneurs and government support. The labor force in the Philippines are price competitive and literate in the sense that most of the Filipino workers know how to read and write English. There are numerous institutions providing I.T. education. According to the National Information Technology Center, in 1997, the Philippines is the second largest in terms of training facilities for computer courses in Asia. Their study also shows that there were 200 training centers and 30 colleges and Universities offering I.T. courses in 1996 alone and increased to 357 the following year (37). Having these institutions, there is an increase in the literacy rate in the country. Businesses on the other hand, engage in I.T. for it produces higher income with less capital. The support of the government is every essential to promote I.T. and study the situation of I.T. in the country. But the problem is, even though I.T. in the Philippines seems stable, its weakness also comes from its strength. According to the studies made by National Information Technology Center, the country’s labor force despite its strength lacks middle to high-end I.T. professionals. There were also lacks of small-scale entrepreneurs that provide jobs and the government because of corruption and lack of initiative regarding job outlook study, failed to strengthen the I.T. industry despite their well planned programs (20).
I.T. education in the Philippines needs certain changes. There are a lot of I.T. institutions available almost all over the country that is providing I.T. education. But, most of these institutions only provide vocational courses in I.T. There is a need in revising the curriculums provided by these institutions. Another factor that contributes to the problem in education is a lot of students are taking up I.T. because of the misconception of the demand for I.T. Well, at first, there was a need for I.T. professionals but now that people are all taking it up, there have been a great proliferation of I.T. graduates that resulted in the increase of unemployment. Viviene Tan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Thames, also explained that there have been different stories when it comes to unemployment. The government, claims that the unemployment rate improved compared to the previous years. On the other hand, jobless I.T. graduates and reports claim that there are not enough jobs available in the market (qtd. in Himenez 3).
I.T. graduates in the Philippines are categorized into three. These are the high-end, above standard (middle) and standard (middle to lower class) I.T. graduates. High-end means top of the line I.T. graduates. These graduates are really skillful, very competitive and graduated in top universities in the country. In addition, most of them are really wealthy. Middle-end graduates are skillful and competitive and belong to the middle class. And lastly, the standard I.T. graduates. These are graduates that are competitive but lack skills. These graduates come from vocational institutions and most of them are somewhat less fortunate. When it comes to job seeking, middle to high-end I.T. professionals have no problems in their employment. In fact, the companies seek them personally. But, most of the time, these graduates get out of the country to seek more opportunities. The problem of employment is actually, for the lower class, because they constitute most of the country’s I.T. professionals. They lack credentials and skills that make it hard for them to find jobs. Therefore, they end up with jobs such as teachers, clerks, helpers and sometimes if not fortunate remains jobless.
There is a great competition in the I.T. industry when it comes to jobs. Companies want high-end programmers, engineers and analysts. But the problem is, as stated earlier, high-end class of graduates usually go abroad to seek bigger opportunities. This in turn drains the country in terms of highly skilled I.T. professionals. It does not only affect the employee’s position but also the managerial positions. For, only high-end graduates fit and competent to battle high positions in I.T. departments. Luis Lorenzo, the Secretary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Job Creations, added that the Filipino graduates lack skills due to the past-paced development in technology. These in turn create new job requirements, which are not met by these graduates (qtd. in Himenez 10).
The country needs to improve its educational system regarding I.T. in order to produce high-end personnel. In response to these difficulties, some institutions have conducted studies and made adjustments on their curriculum to enhance graduates in the I.T. field. The University of the Philippines Manila boosted its I.T. curriculum more specifically in computer science. U.P. also signed partnership with some of the world’s top software companies. Ley Salcedo, Computer Associates of the Philippine Country manager explained, that under the Computer Associates Academic Partnership Program, I.T. in the Philippines would improve because the Computer Associates (CA) would help train and educate the country’s I.T. professionals. Salcedo, also said that CA would help the graduates find suitable jobs wherein they can practice their skills and be loyal to local industries (qtd. in UP Manila 3).
International Companies such as Intel, world leader in computer chip manufacturing gave emphasis on the need of improving the education in I.T. in the country. Dr. Timothy G. Saponas, manager of Intel’s international program said, “We view education as a very important part of our overall strategic plan. It is important to us in developing our semiconductor processors”(qtd. in Intel 3). Intel wants to secure their future and only the youth taking up I.T. today will be the key in what Intel wants to happen in the future. The company gave 120 million dollars to contribute in the development in education in elementary, secondary and higher education around the globe. Dr. Saponas also added that they invest in education because Intel wants top of the line I.T. professionals (qtd. in Intel 5).
Improving the educational system is one aspect of improving the I.T. industry in a country. But another factor would be, as Vicente Rallon, writer of the article Philippine I.T. realities, pointed out that there should be a society willing to take chances in business (2). To improve the I.T. industry, there is a need of entrepreneurs to provide firms for production of goods and services. Entrepreneurs are the capitalists and the heart of all businesses. With more firms available, there would be more jobs available. In the case of the Philippines, entrepreneurs are very few especially in the I.T. business.
Small-scale businesses are very essential especially in the I.T. field. I.T. needs ideas from its capitalist and not too much capital which is a perfect combination with small-scale businesses. The Center for Research and Communication (CRC) now University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) have studied and found out that small-scale businesses plays an important role in a county’s industrial sector. Studies show that small-scale businesses are the stepping-stones for bigger companies. The problem in the Philippines is that the businesses are centered mostly in the Luzon primarily Manila its capital. The research also concluded that if there would be an increase of small-scale businesses in the provinces, there would be income distribution (1). This will then increase employment.
What capitalize most of the I.T. industry are the large multinational companies such as Intel, Seagate, Fujitsu and other large companies producing computer hardware have been investing in the Philippines. In addition, these companies support provincial industry. According to the National Information Technology Council, Fujitsu had invested 300 million dollars for a manufacturing plant of their hard disk in Canlubang. NEC also planned to have a wiring plant in Laguna and Acer has been building additional facilities in Subic (22). Multination companies as manifested earlier, are investing a lot in the Philippines. This just shows how commercialized the Philippines can be.
The government’s role is very important in the development of I.T. in the Philippines. They are the ones that provide the budget. The government’s budget averages about 643 million and is increasing annually. The government has been spending billions because of investments in I.T. According to the National Information Technology Council in 1997, I.T. spending by the government was increasing and was expecting to finance 21 billion worth of I.T. assets in 5 years and now its in its 5th year. Also, the Local government computerization program was completed that same year (37). Its purpose was computerization in the government involving high-technology integrated solutions such as: providing website for the different bureau’s of the government, computerization of the civil registry at the National Statistics office and other aspects which involves computerization (34).
The Philippine government has a clear goal in the I.T. industry but there is a problem, corruption. Philippine is known to have a corrupt government and this disrupts the I.T. industry to develop. In addition, the economic problems occurring in the country is another contributing factor. Even though there have been actions taken by the government, such actions are useless if the government will tolerate corruption and will not do anything about the economy. Another problem as Rep. Gilbert Remulla, a Congressman of the Philippines stressed, that the government should do more studying regarding job outlooks. He also emphasized, that the government should inform the public on what is the current situation of the I.T. profession (qtd. in Himenez 12).
Having I.T. as one of a country’s pioneer instrument for development is fruitful, but because of problems in education, lack of firms to provide employment and lack of efficient ruling by the government, any country will have a hard time solving such problems. In the case of the Philippines, with the help of foreign companies to invest in education and provide firms in the country, there is hope in the I.T. industry. And, with the advancement of computer-based curriculum adopted by I.T. institutions, there will be an increase of high-end graduates. Lastly, the government should also be more aggressive to put up studies in how to improve the I.T. industry and they should try to solve the unemployment problem. It is the only way, the Philippines to become one of the leaders in I.T. Maybe in the future or maybe not, it all depends on the sectors the holds the key in I.T.
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