Winning together in the fourth industrial revolution

By Adrian Paul B. Conoza,Special Features Writer

The growing need to keep in step with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIRe) was stressed in the second panel discussion of BusinessWorld’s Industry 4.0 Summit held last Sept. 9 at Shangri-La at the Fort, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

Comprising the panel were Brigadier General Eliseo Rio, Jr., undersecretary for operations of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT); Thomas Abell, advisor and chief of digital technology for development at Asian Development Bank (ADB); Atty. Jeremiah Belgica, director-general of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA); Trina Firmalo-Fabic, current mayor of Odiongan, Romblon; and Renato Garcia, director of the Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators (PCTO).

As the discussion started on how the concerned sectors are rising up to FIRe, Ms. Firmalo-Fabic shared that many local government units (LGUs) are still not talking about FIRe and are yet to access its “low hanging fruits” like automation and computerization. On a positive note, she said that great opportunities lie ahead for LGUs, particularly in rural areas.

Noting that his department is confronted with the question of whether the country is ready for FIRe, Mr. Rio simply answered: “Unfortunately, we could not say we are ready because we lack the infrastructure,” noting that the ongoing Build, Build, Build program along with DICT’s efforts like the Tech4Ed program are addressing the inadequacy.

For the undersecretary, information is the driving force of the industry in FIRe. “But just like oil, [information] has to be piped to the different end-users for it to be used and become profitable for the needs of our citizens,” Mr. Rio said.

Mr. Belgica, meanwhile, said that as ARTA works in promoting the ease of doing business, especially in terms of pushing for rationalization efforts, the agency “ultimately has its sights on [the] automation of government services.” Rushing towards automation, however, will not necessarily serve as a solution.

“Many of us think automation will solve the rampant red tape happening in government service; but before we could automate a system we first need to rationalize it,” he explained.

Moving further the discussion, Mr. Abell of ADB, who sees the Philippines in a very good position to take advantage of FIRe, finds it very important for Southeast Asia to have economic integration as a region in preparation for FIRe. He noted that unlike the European Union, which has a common data privacy policy, “[in Southeast Asia] it’s harder if every country has its own regulations about data privacy and data portability.”

Asked on how the government and public sectors can maximize the developments brought by FIRe, Mr. Garcia of PCTO said that the notion of customer sensitivity could be applied to government. “If the government would now be able to look at the concerns of the masses… the gap between expectations of public and government can be handled,” he added.

As the panel closed, Ms. Firmalo-Fabic stressed that both the public and private sector should work hand-in-hand in taking advantage of FIRe. “There is hope, but we have to act now and we have to integrate and work together,” the mayor said. “And the good news is that with technology… it’s cheaper, faster, and easier to replicate whatever breakthroughs there are and use them for development.”