Further development of the Philippines' information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and creating a nurturing environment for internet products is needed to seize the sectors' contribution to the economy, a top Google Inc. official said recently.
“It should be a priority agenda of your government and private sector to develop infrastructure and products for internet use, because this will help in growing small businesses and therefore an economy,” he added.
Pitchette noted the importance of such initiatives as Google projects the next one billion internet users to come from emerging markets, like the Philippines.
Internet contributes to the economy by easing transaction costs, and putting out more information on businesses, projects and products, among others.
There are no papers focusing on the impact of the web to Philippine output, but Google research (www.thinkwithgoogle.com) suggests that internet contributes 2 to 5 percent to an emerging economy's gross domestic product (GDP).
“The great thing with using the internet as a tool to boost the economy is that it's not as asset intensive as other industries,” said Pitchette.
Pitchette statement's came on the heels of the company's satellite office opening here last January, where Google officials noted that the Philippines' 33 million internet users will nearly double by 2016.
Philippine ICT improved, but more inroads needed
Google's call is not new. At various forums, local and foreign businessmen have also voiced out the need for improvement in the country's ICT sector.
“Invest in infrastructure that make internet broadband cheaper and faster. We need to focus on S&T (science and technology) especially in ICT,” Silicon Valley- based IT firm Narra Venture Capital's managing partner in the country Paco Sandejas said at the Philippine Economic Briefing held in mid-February.
In its second anniversary assessment of Arangkada (Move Twice as Fast) initiatives, the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) said telecommunications “has advanced from being monopolistic, high-cost, and inefficient to having considerable competition, enabling a majority of the population and businesses to communicate... at a much reduced cost.”
But their assessment report released Tuesday noted “no major developments” in drafting a National Broadband Roadmap as well as “no major efforts to increase computer penetration.”
It, moreover, said the Executive shows “no signs” of support for the creation of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).
“The bulk of accomplishments are just the beginning, there's so much work to be done. I don't care if it's through a DICT, or whoever, we just need to work on it,” said Sandejas.
Currently, most ICT concerns are under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
The JFC, likewise, noted the need for more cellular sites to expand mobile phone service in remote areas to benefit economic development and tourism.
“Government's primary role is to promote an environment conducive to competition and manage spectrum effectively, to ensure... availability and most productive use,” the assessment report read.
Google products for Pinoy users
Google noted that mobile internet products will help Filipino users on mobile banking, among other mobile phone-aided transactions.
“The miracle of instant internet is through mobile, as it's really affordable for a vast majority of people. Wireless coverage should continue to increase, it's the future,” said Pitchette.
Google first unveiled “Free Zone” in the Philippines through a partnership with local telecommunications operators. The product gave Filipinos access to the web and basic Google services (Google Search, Gmail and Google+) through their Internet-enabled feature phones mobile phones without data charge.
“Google has localized a lot of products for the Filipino users even before we opened an office,” said Gail Tan, communications manager at Google Philippines.
She was reffering to YouTube where Filipinos watch more than a million hours of video a day as well as Chrome Web Store allowing local developers to easily build and distribute their apps to the 310 million people around the world who already use Chrome.
Google is also looking at growing its “get your business on-line” program as well as provision of financial services to small businesses for on-line advertising.
“What we're offering now is financing for advertisements and Google products. So, that we will have to focus on,” Pitchette said, referring to Google's pilot project in the United States and the UK.
“In many areas of the world we are partnering in other institutions, in Southeast Asia we will look at it if its possible to forge partnerships in financial institutions and governments,” he told GMA News Online.
“Our market is the planet. All we have is different penetration at this time,” Pitchette said. “Stay tuned, keep an eye on the type of countries and products that will show up.”