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EDITORIAL — Ready for AI... or not

The Philippines, according to President Marcos, is “embracing” the future with artificial intelligence. He issued the statement as he invited technology companies and venture capitalists in the US to be partners of the Philippines in “navigating the AI future.”

The meeting with the tech entrepreneurs was among the highlights of the President’s participation in this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, California. He said the government is currently crafting a National AI Strategy that “aims to position the Philippines as a center of excellence in artificial intelligence.”

Let’s hope the techpreneurs will be enticed and help Filipinos embrace AI. US-based digital tech giant Cisco, in a recent study conducted among companies in the Philippines, found that while 98 percent of the firms want to adopt AI to boost efficiency and competitiveness, only a low 17 percent are ready to employ AI technology in their operations. Nearly half of the firms lack the proper infrastructure to meet AI challenges. Cisco assessed AI readiness based on strategy, infrastructure, data, talent, governance and culture.

Apart from helping companies transition to AI technologies, the government must also address the impact of AI on jobs. Experts have warned that one of the biggest generators of employment in the country, business process outsourcing, is among the most vulnerable as AI increasingly takes over BPO functions. BPO workers aren’t the only ones at risk of displacement. In May this year, management consulting firm Kearney estimated that up to 100,000 jobs in the Philippines could become obsolete within three to four years. Among those expected to be badly hit, Kearney said, are retail and back-office roles involving traditional manual data entry. It noted that the impact is already becoming evident in areas such as financial institutions and telecommunications.

 Another study conducted by the International Data Corp. ranked the Philippines 12th among 14 economies in the Asia-Pacific on progress in automation.

Experts have been stressing the urgency of upskilling and reskilling vulnerable workers. Both the public and private sectors are struggling to get