TECHNOLOGY, innovation, and education opportunities for US-Philippines bilateral relationship

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TECHNOLOGY, innovation, and education are the three main areas that the Philippines and the United States should explore as partners for positive economic development in the 21st century, according to speakers at “The Future of the US-Philippines Bilateral Relationship” forum held in Makati City on Friday.

Christina Laskowski, president of the Science & Technology Advisory Council Silicon Valley (STAC SV), said there must be a policy that will enable both countries to “facilitate learning development and experience.”

“Consider immigration and employment policies that enable professionals to gain valuable IT and tech experience,” she said, noting that what is lacking among professionals in the business environment nowadays is “experience.”

She added that there must be an opportunity for citizens “to be creative and innovative.”

Ms. Laskowski is an officer and board member of several non-profit and community organizations focused on cultural awareness, empowerment, and entrepreneurship.

For his part, Diosdado Banatao, chairman of the Philippine Development Foundation, said the challenge is to get students to learn. He said investing in “design knowledge” is needed because design practice “is a necessity in the same way as innovation is a necessity in business.”

Mr. Banatao said this discipline should be incorporated in the undergraduate level curriculum. “There is a need for discussions among stakeholders…. I have not seen discussions [on this matter] at universities,” he said.

He stressed that the government, through the Commission on Higher Education, should consider including the design program in the undergraduate education.

Katrina Chan, executive director of QBO Innovation Hub, which is the Philippines’ leading public-private initiative to support startups, said that “experience and financial investments” in the country “must be strengthened.”

“Filipinos engaged in startups must be given a certain level of financial comfort to be able to pursue training and opportunities for growth,” she added.

On the chance of the Philippines to partner with the US in revolutionizing industries such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and blockchain, Mr. Banatao said: “The fastest way is for Silicon Valley companies to expand their operations here in the Philippines.”

Asked if the Philippines should just play to the success of the Silicon Valley or look at other cities for a model, Ms. Laskowski said: “Silicon Valley is Silicon Valley. The Philippines must recognize its own strengths and leverage on it as much as it can.”

The forum was organized by The Asia Foundation and the Ateneo School of Government, and funded by the US government. — Arjay L. Balinbin