A government official sees the need for Mindanao and the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) to vigorously pursue an innovation and startups system conside-ring the growing oppor-tunities in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.
“This means that investments must be geared towards the crea-tion and empowerment of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that support the ICT industry. By pursuing SME empowerment we will become more inclusive as we utilize technology to address the challenges and constraints in the other industry sectors,” Secretary Lualhati Antonino of the Mindanao Development Authority said Wednesday during the opening of the BIMP-EAGA ICT Cluster Chief Executive Officers’ Conference.
BIMP-EAGA is an economic cooperation among the member econo-mies that aims to develop complementarities that will help promote the region as a single market in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Economic Cooperation (AEC).
Antonino said an increase in the internet access for private sector establishments in Mindanao to 83.1 percent from the previous data of 76.9 percent. The Mindanao Corridors Development Program, a development strategy that aims to achieve physical integration among key economic clusters in Mindanao in its bid to become self-reliant and internally dependable to prepare the region for the AEC, reinforces the enab-ling business environment for sustained trade within the BIMP-EAGA, with ASEAN and the rest of the world.
“The Corridors Pro-gram has laid forth various strategies to increase the competitiveness of Min-danao and Palawan through the improvement of the transport and logistics service to support tourism, industry and agricultural development,” she said.
Mindanao got the second largest share in infrastructure spending at 28.2 percent or P21.5 billion in 2014. Around P100 billion has been allocated this year for the major infrastructure component of the Minda-nao Corridors Program.
One of the programs that effectively brought ICT to the once-unserved and marginalized areas of the country is the Department of Science and Techno-logy’s Technology for Education (Tech4Ed) which aims to make use of ICT to bridge the digital divide and ultimately alleviate poverty. She said the Program empowers people by upgrading their digital literacy, providing women and homemakers with new income genera-tion prospects and delivering equal and direct government services to all.
“I am confident that we can replicate and even expand a similar ICT initiative to the rest of the EAGA sub-region specifi-cally focusing on agri-business, tourism and environment,” she said.
Antonino urged the investors of the BEST Cable Project to implement their systems and put in place a high speed internet connectivity that is affordable for micro and SME in the sub-region. The BIMP-EAGA Submarine and Terrestrial (BEST) Cable Project which is initiated by the Best Cable Consortium will boost Mindanao’s position as an investment destination for Business Process Outsour-cing (BPO) companies. The 5,092-kilometer cable system is a high bandwidth cable system that will link Sabah, Brunei Darussalam, Southern Philippines, and Kalimantan in Indonesia down to Guam and the United States.
“Our telecommunica-tion industry should also explore missionary connec-tivity to far flung areas as a means of narrowing the digital divide,” she said. BIMP-EAGA has already set a platform for further collaboration between the ICT players and the other working clusters of the sub-region. To support and entice enterprise develop-ment, she said, the sub-regional cooperation should also look into policies that will improve the business environment, increase productivity and competi-tion and enhance consumer welfare and intellectual property protection.
The Livelihood Ex-change 2015, which is a private sector initiated event, is expected to provide an avenue for the players to reaffirm their aspirations and to work together to achieve the dreams for a connected and integrated BIMP-EAGA.
She said the BIMP-EAGA ICT CEO’s Forum signals a stronger commit-ment and collaboration among the ICT players and stakeholder who have collectively agreed to strengthen the industry and maximize its contribution to promoting economic growth across the country and the entire BIMP-EAGA sub-region.
Antonino added that the BIMP-EAGA sub-regional cooperation has noteworthy achievements in bringing about physical integration in spite of the geographic limitations. Among the ICT projects that push for the advancement of the ICT sector in the sub-region are the Best Cable Project, Intelligent Clearance Identification System (ICLID) and the ICT Rural Outreach Program (IROP), and the Business Startups or BizStart.