Research facility seen to make Philippines an AI powerhouse

Louella Desiderio (The Philippine Star) - May 7, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The establishment of a private sector-led research center under a roadmap rolled out on Wednesday would position the Philippines as an artificial intelligence (AI) powerhouse in the region.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the National Center for AI Research (N-CAIR) would be established under the national AI roadmap to guide the Philippines in becoming an AI center of excellence.

Citing an estimate from research firms EDBI and Kearney, he said AI is expected to boost Southeast Asia’s gross domestic product (GDP) by up to $1 trillion by 2030.

For the Philippines alone, Kearney estimates a 12 percent uplift in GDP, equivalent to $92 billion.

“Serving as home to full-time research scientists and research engineers, the N-CAIR will be responsible for advancing scientific discoveries in AI and play a pivotal role in nurturing and developing AI talent and data science leaders,” Lopez said.

Through the N-CAIR, government agencies, industries, and other research centers in the country would be able to avail of AI consultancy services.

He said the N-CAIR would encourage companies to build their capacity to make new products, processes, and services utilizing AI.

“The potential AI applications that can benefit companies include avoiding spoilage of agricultural produce, predicting maintenance of equipment, optimizing processes in factories, and enhancing business decision-making through advanced analytics,” he said.

He also said the N-CAIR would assist micro, small and medium enterprises interested in using data science, analytics, and AI tools for improved efficiency and productivity.

“For Philippine businesses and industries, AI technologies can reduce operational costs, increase efficiency, grow revenue, and improve customer experience. By deploying the right AI technology, businesses can save time and money by automating and optimizing routine processes and tasks. These are just a few of the advantages that our businesses and industries can derive from AI,” he said.

In addition, he said the N-CAIR aims to develop the Filipino capability and AI expertise.

Apart from serving as a guide, he said the AI roadmap would identify key areas for technology application, recommend ways for effective R&D collaboration among government, industry and academe, put forward steps to prepare the workforce for the jobs of the future, and aim to attract the biggest industries to set up shop in the country to generate more jobs for Filipinos.

Former trade secretary Gregory Domingo, who currently serves as senior adviser of SM Investments Corp., said the success of the N-CAIR would depend on the quality of people recruited, strength of its linkage to the international research community, and the tightness of collaboration with academe and the private sector.

“It should be nimble, flexible, and quick given that the AI field is very dynamic,” he said.

He also said the roadmap should be updated annually to be in line with the latest developments.

For his part, Information Technology (IT) and Business Process Association of the Philippines president and chief executive officer Rey Untal said the industry is hopeful N-CAIR would help in generating higher value work as the country’s IT-business process management sector seeks to position itself as having differentiated and varied set of services for the global business community.

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