Monday, January 29, 2007

Cagayan De Oro Chamber Lays Groundwork For Mindanao ICT Business Council

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Mike Banos / 29 Jan) - The Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc. (Oro Chamber) will host a strategic assessment workshop on Wednesday here to explore the viability for a Cagayan de Oro Business Council for Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

Heidi Grace P. Mendoza, Oro Chamber secretary-general, said the council will initially bring together existing ICT sector organizations to give them a stronger, united voice for the industry.

“Initially, we aim to create an ICT Conveners’ Group,” Mendoza said. “We envision a body to plan execute and coordinate ICT programs and projects on investment promotion, business matching, business development, human resource development, policy advocacy and capacity building.”

Expected to join the workshop are the Cagayan de Oro Computer Dealers Association, Cagayan de Oro Software Developers Association, Computer Animators Group, internet café operators association and the newly created Telecoms and Power Development Group of Cagayan de Oro.
“We have also invited ICT representatives from chambers in Zamboanga, General Santos, Davao and Iligan to sound them out on the prospects for a Mindanao-wide ICT business council in the future,” Mendoza said.

The Oro Chamber first started discussing the concept of a united voice for the ICT sector in June 2006 when it hosted the 1st Northern Mindanao Business Summit on ICT which sought to generate interest in opportunities which had opened to local investors as a result of new trends in ICT.

In September 2006, some 400 participants from all over Mindanao flocked to Cagayan de Oro for the 5th Mindanao ICT Congress. The two-day congress identified key players in the ICT sectors from business, academe and government who then established the Mindanao ICT Agenda.

Mendoza said the congress has also invited officers and representatives from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the American Chamber of Commerce, and others from key support industries and institutions in the private and public sectors involved in telecoms infrastructure, training and regulation.

Cagayan de Oro now leads the ICT industry in Mindanao with its nascent business process outsourcing (BPO) industry which includes three call centers with over 1,000 seats and more entrants expected this year, two medical transcription firms, and over a hundred other companies involved in software development, internet café operations, graphics animation, and telecommunications.

The ICT Profile provided by the DTI-Misamis Oriental office describes the ICT infrastructure in Cagayan de Oro as being traversed by two major backbones: PLDT’s 10 gigabytes per second (gbps) Digital Fiber Optic Backbone (DFOB) which is directly connected to five international submarine cable systems in the Asia Pacific and Southeast Asian region with onward connections to North America.

The Middle East and Western Europe, supported by an extensive Digital Microwave Backbone; and Telicphil’s 10 gbps National Digital Transmission Network, a 2,762 kms. fiber optic facility that originates from Cuyapo, Isabela in the north and terminates in Cagayan de Oro in the south.

“Connectivity is important in the call center industry,” said Engr. Teodoro Buenavista, NTC-X regional director and member of the Regional Information Technology and E-Commerce Committee of Region 10 (RITECC-10) e-cluster group.

Bautista stressed it is not only connectivity in hardware but between the local players that the local BPO industry needs to maintain an edge over the competition, hence the imperative need for an ICT business council.

“RITECC-X will continue to push public-private partnership in three areas of development: policy, implementation and advocacy,” Bautista said.

The Department of Trade and Industry says the Philippines is fast catching up with India as the “Call Center Capital of Asia” due to the increasing costs of doing business in G-7 countries.

A 2005 study conducted by research firm Frost and Sullivan, reveals that the Philippine call center industry now ranks ninth in the Asian region with $9.8-million invested in hardware and software as of 2005, trailing its English-speaking rivals: India ($21 million) and Singapore ($20.3 million).

From only a handful of call centers at the start of 2000, there is now an estimated 105 call center companies in the country, or double the figure from 2003. (Mindanao Examiner)

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