MANILA, Philippines ? (UPDATE) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said government's plan to establish an information and communications technology hub in every province is a "good second best" to the botched national broadband network (NBN) project.
Arroyo reiterated her directive for the Commission on Information and Communication Technology (CICT) to study the feasibility of setting up a technology hub, capable of hosting a call center at the very least, in every province as she launched the University of the Philippines-Ayala Land Techno Hub in Quezon City on Friday.
"Each [local government] to his own need and this is what we can do given that we have not been able to put together a national broadband, this is a good second bets," she said.
Arroyo cancelled the government's $329-million contract with China's ZTE Corp. for the National Broadband Network (NBN) project after it was tainted with allegations of overpricing and bribery. The controversy has spawned an impeachment complaint that Congress is hearing.
Constructed on UP's idle properties across Commonwealth Avenue, the Techno Hub will host BPO and other technology firms. The President said it would be the country's "foremost IT laboratory, training ground, and incubator."
"The UP-Ayala Land techno hub is one giant step to bring the country closer to the goal we declared in 2001 of making technology the foundation of our economic development," she said.
"We can now create our own version of Stanford University's Sillicon Valley and MIT's Route 128, the birthplace of so much research that has changed lives and lifestyles," she said.
She said that with the robust growth being experienced by the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, transforming each Philippine province into an information and communication technology ?enabler? was logical.
"The national government, with the CICT, shall guide the LGUs [local government units] concerned on how to pursue the technology programs with these twin objectives -- number one, develop a technology hub?and second, expand the capabilities of provinces that are already ICT enablers so they can increase their absorptive capacity and expand into hardcore ICT operations," she said in her speech.
She said there was a need to ?wire the entire country? to lure more BPO and hardcore technology firms, and train the youth into world-class programmers, embedded techies and network engineers.
"In the ICT jargon, we need to wire the entire country to attract more BPO [business process outsourcing] and hardcore technology companies and help train young Filipinos into world class workers in programming, embedded technologies and network engineering," she said.
To host BPO, techie firms
The 37.5-hectare UP-Ayala Land TechnoHub, located across Commonwealth Avenue on the south side of the UP campus, is being developed by the Ayala property company into a fully integrated information technology and IT-enabled services community to host business process outsourcing (BPO) and technology firms.
It is envisioned to serve as a catalyst for technological innovation along the lines of Silicon Valley in California which uses Stanford University as a base.
Ms Arroyo hailed the opening of the science and technology park as a ?giant step? to bring the country closer to its goal of making technology the ?foundation of our economic development.?
In 2006, the President said one of her priority projects was the building of a ?Cyber Corridor,? and identified key investment destinations across the country that would host call centers and outsourcing companies as well as IT software and hardware manufacturers.
The government was to support this by building additional digital infrastructure, one of these being the proposed national broadband network to connect the entire machinery of government to the Internet.
However, the government had to scuttle the $329-million National Broadband Network (NBN) project with a Chinese technology firm last year after strong allegations that Arroyo administration officials had obtained fat commissions from the award of the contract.
The charges became the subject of a Senate inquiry last year, and were cited as among the grounds in a fresh impeachment complaint filed against the President with the House of Representatives.
The President said she had instructed the Commission on Information and Communication Technology (CICT) to conduct a technical study on the resources needed to transform every province into an ICT enabler.
She said the government, through the ICT, would guide each province on how to pursue technology programs with the goal of developing a technology hub and then expanding their capabilities into hardcore information and communications technology (ICT) operations.
?The national government will merely provide guidance and advice on the many paths and strategies towards these objectives. It will be the LGU leaders who will decide on the level of technology and development they want,? Ms Arroyo said.
The President said that turning each province into an IT and communication hub would provide opportunities for creative Filipino youths, some of whom she said have become hooked on hacking.
?There is a well of technical and creative talent from where to draw this world class pool of technology workers. Let us direct the talent of the young away from hacking and other destructive undertakings into productive ones,? she said.
The UP-Ayala TechnoHub, a complex of low-rise buildings within the 98-hectare UP campus, is one of the university?s centennial projects and is seen to boost UP?s goal of becoming a hub of education, research and training excellence.
Among the expected benefits are the industry-academe collaboration on research and development, employment, and in the long run, further development of the IT industry, officials said.
ALI president Jimmy Ayala said six buildings of four stories each would be completed this year and four more buildings next year to form a campus-like setting within the UP.
It will offer a gross leasable area of almost 70,000 square meters of office space by the end of 2008.
Of the six buildings that have so far been completed, three are 100-percent leased, two buildings are 75-percent leased and one building 50-percent leased out, ALI said.
?We call this facility a learning laboratory, a lot of it is about learning about the advancement of technology and science. It?s a laboratory because there is a lot of experimentation going on. A lot of our locators are bringing in the most modern equipment so we?re putting together a program with students so they can use this for tours and practicum,? Ayala said.
Who?s Who in
The Diliman facility has so far attracted such firms as IBM Business Solutions, Filipino-owned software developer Pointwest Technologies, Seachange (engaged in software development, maintenance and quality assurance) as well as the BPO facilities of Manulife and HSBC.
Also located at the TechnoHub are ?incubators,? or operations consisting of five- to 10-person enterprises like developers of an underwater robot that can be controlled from a remote location and a group developing an SMS payment gateway to serve the healthcare needs of overseas Filipino workers and their dependents in the Philippines.
?Our strategy is to promote outsourcing and offshoring. That?s a large growth area in the country. We are No. 2 after India,? Ayala said.
ALI will also be building low-rise residential buildings for the technopark?s employees and UP faculty and students, and a three-star hotel for businessmen.