MANILA, JULY 13, 2007
 (STAR) FILIPINO WORLD VIEW By Roberto R. Romulo - When IBM Philippines marks next week its 70th anniversary of doing business in the Philippines, we will have one more reassuring reminder that our country has what it takes to host some of the world’s greatest companies and organizations. IBM, it hardly bears repeating, happens to be a computer stalwart and the largest IT employer in the world.

The year 1987 was special for IBM Philippines for two reasons. It was awarded the IBM Regional General Managers Cup as Country of the Year at the Hundred Percent Club conference in Sydney, Australia. And then in July 1987, then President Corazon Aquino, as the guest of honor during the 50th anniversary celebration, paid Big Blue this tribute:

“In IBM, by the nature of its work, the greatest value added is the human being. It is not surprising that IBM has made the development of the human being, inside and outside the company, the principal focus of its efforts. For IBM is as dedicated a profit taker as any business in the world and better at it than most. Its business just happens to be people. IBM makes its money by using the best in people, by improving their intellectual command of their environment and using their talents to the fullest extent in the operation and development of machines and programs to which IBM has addicted the world. I must add that this has been to the world‘s great improvement and benefit.”

You can imagine my elation because I was the president and general manager of IBM Philippines at the time. Not long after — following 25 years of service in this great company — I took early retirement and entered government service. Many other Filipinos led IBM before and after me. Ramon del Rosario Sr. was the first. Then came Jose Arguelles, Rainerio Reyes, myself, followed by Virgilio Peña, Ramon Dimacali, Ramon Jocson, Joaquin Quintos and now James Velasquez. It’s IBM’s policy of harnessing global talent that has kept it at the forefront of its competitors throughout its history.

During my time, IBM strongly manifested “respect for the individual” in its executive development program. There are countless examples of how this development program has benefited not only individuals but also various aspects of Philippine society. Monching del Rosario, my personal role model, was outstanding both in the corporate world and in the Philippine foreign service.. Ray Reyes and Ver Pena also joined government as Secretary of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and Chairman of the Commission on Information Communications Technology (CICT), respectively. Pempot Arguelles has prospered in the field of education even as he continues to provide counsel to corporations as a board member Ramon Dimacali is President and CEO of Federal Phoenix Insurance. Jajo Quintos is still with IBM managing one of the largest BPO operations in Manila. Ramon Jocson is now the highest ranking Filipino in the IBM organization as vice-president in IBM Asia Pacific. Space will not allow me to cite the other ex-IBMers who continue to excel in their various endeavors.

Why, it is fair to ask, is there life after IBM both in the corporate world and in the public sector? I believe it is because IBM recognized early on that leadership development is a critical business tool that has a direct impact on a company’s bottom line and future growth. While leadership is a personal journey for each person, IBM nurtured this innate ability of fostering a culture that says this stuff matters. It has been consistently recognized as one of the top five companies in leadership development. This is a lesson that perhaps our academic institutions and corporations may wish to consider as they continue to develop future leaders.

Diverging from Technology Convergence

After my quarter century at IBM, readers will perhaps understand why I am a strong advocate of technology development in our country’s modernization program. I was gratified by the focus on IT given by the Ramos administration and its successor governments. During the Estrada era, the private sector with the able support of then Secretary of Trade Mar Roxas aggressively lobbied for the e-Commerce law. Senator Jun Magsaysay authored RA 8792 which was enacted into law in June 2000.

In 2001, Executive Order 19 transferred the chairmanship of the Information Technology E-Commerce Council (ITECC) to the President of the Philippines. With this transfer, the ICT industry got a champion who could get things done and placed ICT in the forefront of government priorities.

In January 2004, E.O. 269 took cognizance of the trend towards convergence of telecommunications, broadcasting and computer technologies . The order created the Commission on Information Communications Technology (CICT) to address the then fragmented policy and program implementation of ICT activities in the country. This was envisioned to be the prelude to the creation of the Department of Information Communications Technology by legislation.

Among the institutions that CICT absorbed from DOTC were the National Computer Center, the telecommunications policy / planning office, and TELOF (the former bureau of telecommunications).The National Telecommunications Commission was also placed under the administrative supervision of CICT. As such, CICT became the primary institution for developing IT policy, programs and projects for the government.

Last year, however, another Executive Order was issued that mandated the return of the National Telecommunications Office to DOTC. Last February 2007 E.O. 603, TELOF and all other operating units supporting communications were once again transferred to DOTC.

I understand there has been much controversy related to the DOTC National Broadband Network contract with ZTE and the Cyber-ED program of Department of Education. I am not in a position to comment either positively or negatively on these projects. But there will definitely be a proliferation of ICT projects unilaterally implemented by government agencies as a result of CICT’s becoming toothless. That means there will not be an integrated e-Government strategy. The objective of achieving an efficient, seamless and economic delivery of government services, both national and local, will never be attained under such a situation.

In contrast, our ASEAN neighbors have recognized the imperatives for technological convergence by establishing ministerial level organizations in charge of ICT.

Perhaps it’s time for the President to step in and restore direction in our ICT policy and program. E.O. 269 was a step in the right direction. The eventual creation of a full-fledged department would place us in lockstep with the rest of ASEAN and the world.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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