What's in Milan?

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras - The Freeman

Just got back from a weeks trip to Milan, Italy and like in any of my trips, it was a learning and earning experience. I have improved my on-line ability to register my attendance, book airline tickets and hotel, arrange transportation, pay for them via "Paypal," and use "Google" to get around Milan. These are things my children use to do for me, and I did these mostly on my own on this trip. I did get help from Delmar travel to get my Schengen Visa even as the forms were available on-line.

The main purpose of this trip was to attend the 45th International Association of Financial Executives Inc. (IAFEI) World Congress, as one of the members of the Financial Executives Association of the Philippines (FINEX-Philippines). The theme of the World Congress was "Innovation: The Quest for Competitiveness," and the three-day working congress was worth it. The topics and the competences of the speakers were impressive. Against the backdrop of the current and projected state of the World Economy which was first in the program, innovations in transportation, hospitality, financial institutions, information and communication technology, and bio-sciences were presented and discussed.

Without going into details as this will need more than one column, some of the interesting ideas were: the enhanced capabilities of the Smartphones which may be used for all your hotel transactions including the opening of your hotel room, checking out, and pay for your bills without even talking to anybody or passing thru the counter. The enormous growth of Uber and AirBNB, the extensive uses of data analytics in manufacturing, retailing, banking and in almost all economic activity was used as examples. The use of the "Cloud" for data and software availability, and the "apps" to improve and redefine the role and functions of management in a fast changing world, was a recurring theme was well discussed. There was a session on scientific breakthroughs which was well applauded from an MIT Professor, which predicted that soon DNA manipulation will make it possible to slow down the ageing process, so that people will be able to live up to 120 years old. He also predicted that new advances in energy sciences will have storage batteries that will power whole houses and buildings that will be recharged with solar panels, and that low level satellites will make WIFI available to 90% of the world, establishing a universal connectivity.

Milan is a cosmopolitan city with a population of 1.251 million in 2012, including many Filipinos. I hear Tagalog while walking in the streets and riding the subway and had met and had coffee or dinner with some of them. They are working mostly in the service industry earning 1000 to 2000 euros or more. Most of them are already legal but I suspect there are still some undocumented workers. Milan is a very fashionable place with plenty of tourist attractions. High-end designer shops abound and outlet stores are within two hours away.

There are too many cars and parking is a problem even as there are plenty of parking buildings. They have a multi-line subway system, an efficient bus system, electric tram system and fast trains to the neighboring cities and the rest of Europe. The city streets are small as heritage buildings are all preserved, but the roads around and in and out of the city are wide and large. Milan is definitely a city that Cebu can learn from in terms of managing growth, as Milan is clean, water is abundant, tourism is booming, and traffic is manageable.

I spent half a day in the Expo 2015 which is in Milan since May and ending October. The Expo is about food and its sustainability to feed the growing world population. There must have been a million people in that expo on that Friday afternoon and it was almost impossible to visit some of the more popular pavilions, like Japan and Russia. The newly emerging European countries were well represented especially the eastern Europeans like Moldova, Lithuania, Kazakhtan and the like. Asia was less represented with Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand. There were 154 pavilions in all, one fourth of them by the countries. The Philippines and countries that did not have a message on food production did not have pavilions. The Expo will end in October 31 and if you intend to visit, wear comfortable shoes, be ready to walk, wear warm clothes (sweater and jacket), bring an umbrella, and be ready to fall in line.

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