TECHNOLOGY  &  THE  CORPORATE  EXEC

MANILA,
July 19, 2004  (STAR) By Eden Estopace  -  With Netizens all over the world valiantly trying to spring free from cables and wires that have powered and defined electronic communications for decades, the country’s top business executives are still very much hard-wired.

In a survey conducted by BusinessWorld Online from March 31 to Aril 30 this year, 98 percent of survey respondents said they have Internet access, while 87 percent said they also have intranet access. A high 95 percent reported that they access the Internet both at home and at the office, while around 18 percent said they also access the intranet at home. This goes to show that our top executives are accessible online both at home and at the workplace.

However, only about six percent have mobile Internet access, courtesy of their mobile phone or personal digital assistant (PDA). This, despite the fact that 92.7 percent said they have mobile phones and 33 percent have PDAs.

They are not to be blamed though. The country is just waking up to Wi-Fi, a short-range wireless broadband technology that is now slowly unplugging the wired world while staying more than ever connected.

The BusinessWorld Online 2004 Executive Survey, which aimed to determine the IT-related habits of senior executives, had for its respondents 129 management executives listed in BusinessWorld’s Top 1,000 Corporations.

The respondents are company presidents and vice presidents, members of the board of directors, chief executive officers, chief information officers and chief financial officers in at least three economic sectors – AFF (agriculture, fisheries and forestry), industry and services.

Most of the respondents are between 31 and 60 years old and mostly work for private firms.

BusinessWorld Online reported that 1,121 executives from 265 companies were originally targeted for the survey but only 129 responded, a little over half of whom, or 82, answered the survey form online.

Wired, Conventionally

In countries with robust economies, IT literacy is almost a given, with youngsters even leading the pack in technology adoption. While Philippine business executives can be considered technology-savvy, the BusinessWorld Online survey points to the fact that our top management guys still use IT in a conventional way.

The study shows that e-mail is the number one application that our business executives use the most in the Internet. Of the 129 survey respondents, 124 said they mainly use the Internet for e-mail, 97 percent of whom use it daily. E-mail is also the number one activity using intranet connections. A total of 101 executives, or 78 percent, said they send and receive e-mails using intranet connections.

Web surfing is the next most common activity reported by the respondents, although only 39 percent said they do this daily. Majority of the respondents said they surf the Web at least every other day. The top three websites frequented are news websites, business information websites and search engines.

In reading online news sites, business news is the favorite of respondents, followed by world news. Technology and sports news are also interesting but entertainment, national news and comics are the least favored.

According to the BusinessWorld Online report, e-mail, surfing the Internet and reading online newspapers are considered "safe" activities, "which are less risky" compared to other online activities like e-commerce.

For people at the helm of companies and even conglomerates, it is somewhat surprising that the least used type of online activity is e-commerce. Only 66 respondents said they do e-banking and only 58 respondents said they shop online.

Those who bank and shop online said they do so only seldom; 41 said they bank only once a week while 53 said they shop online only once a week. There are at least 10 respondents though who said they bank online everyday but only two said they shop online everyday.

Why the slow embrace of two of the most common types of e-commerce globally? At least 18 of the respondents said no to online banking because of security issues, 12 said they don’t transact if they are not familiar with the shop or bank, and 11 said they are generally uncomfortable with the idea.

On the other hand, those who have ventured into online shopping said they do so mainly because of the unavailability of certain products or services locally.

The most popular item purchased online are books, followed by travel and travel-related services, computers, electronic products and computer software.

As expected, the most frequented shops are foreign online shops, especially Amazon.com and eBay. Vendor-specific sites are also popular such as nwq.com of NorthWest Airlines, apple.com of Apple Computers and barnesandnoble.com of the US-based publishing house. Locally, the favorite online shop is myAyala.com.

The country’s top business executives are not also big online spenders, the survey found out. Only 18 respondents, or 13 percent, said they spent more than $500 in online shopping last year, while 27, or 20 percent, reported that their online spending was less than $500.

"The Internet, for them (respondents)," the report concludes, "is mainly a communication tool, not so much a productivity tool, and much less, a source of economic activity."

Surprisingly though, two percent of the survey respondents said they have no Internet access and about 12 percent don’t even have access to corporate intranet.

Going Slower On The Wireless Route

The digital workplace is no longer confined to the office desk, said Rodell Garcia, chief information officer of Globe Telecom, during a talk that preceded the presentation of the results of the BusinessWorld Online 2004 Executive Survey at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel.

But the uptake on gadgets that are pre-requisites to a mobile digital lifestyle is also not that fast.

While 124 of the 129 respondents, or 96 percent, said they have at least one gadget, which is most likely the mobile phone, only 30 said they use it for e-mail. A smaller number reported that they use it for SMS and entertainment. More than half, however, reported using it for what it was originally intended: making and receiving calls.

Meanwhile, of the 41 respondents who said they have PDAs, almost half said they use it mainly as an electronic organizer. At least 10 respondents though said they use their PDAs to gather news and information, while 12.1 percent said they use it for e-banking.

The executives are also non-committal when asked if they will most likely replace their gadgets when they think an upgrade is necessary.

Majority (63.7 percent) are indefinite about their upgrade plans. Twenty-seven said they upgrade every year, six upgrade every time there is a new model, and only three upgrade every six months.

Local stores are the preferred source for gadgets, with only 18 respondents saying they purchase from foreign stores while only three shop for gadgets online.

IT In The Business Landscape

How has IT changed the business landscape and how important it really is in managing today’s private enterprise?

"It is both changed and unchanged," said Gil Genio, CEO of Innove Communications, in the forum that followed the presentation of survey results. "The way we manage a company is still fundamentally the same but the tools are different. The important thing is how companies extract value from these tools or processes."

However, technology is not an end itself; the challenge is more on harnessing its power and potential.

"In order to appreciate IT, one must understand it," stressed Jaime Camacho, chief information officer of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco). IT should support the long-term goals of a company, he said.

Cynthia Mamon, president of the IT Foundation of the Philippines, agreed. "IT should no longer be viewed as a cost but more of a strategic tool and an enabler that is key to the company’s survival." The more IT-savvy business executives are, she added, "the better they can decide on the right technology to suit their business environment."

"It is not about age, it’s more about attitude. So, for me whether you’re 30, 40 or 50, for as long as you have the attitude for life-long learning, that’s key to adapting to new things like IT," she said.

For Rex Drilon II, COO of Ortigas & Company, however, in the country’s march toward an information society, the enemy is not business leaders but government executives.

"Businesses know for sure that they need IT. But most senior government executives are IT-illiterate," he said, adding that the Comelec is a case in point.

"It’s very hard to deal with people with 19th century thinking," he said. "My suggestion? Let us target government executives. At least, give us one IT-literate Comelec commissioner," he said.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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