By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos, November 16, 2023; Philippine News Agency

MANILA – Silicon Valley firms have expressed their intent to collaborate with the administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity.

This developed after Marcos held a roundtable meeting with technology companies and venture capitalists in San Francisco, California on Thursday (Manila time).

Acknowledging that the Philippines still has a distinct lack of trained talents in blockchain technology, Marcos said his administration has been focusing on the upskilling and reskilling of Filipino workers to keep up with the growing demand and advancements in the fields of AI and cybersecurity.

“We don’t have enough engineers. That simple. So, we need to get them trained, we need to get them… as part of the system,” Marcos said. “And so again, we have really put a great deal of emphasis on retraining. These are new technologies. The principle that we apply is really rather simple. It’s that basically Covid changed everything and after Covid, we have to transform the economy, and technology is going to bring the changes.”

NightDragon chief executive officer (CEO) David Dewalt said his company and other technology firms in the roundtable discussion are looking forward to bringing all the technologies, particularly generative AI to the Philippines.

Dewalt said the planned investments of the technology companies, including NightDragon, would be beneficial to the Philippines, considering its “young and powerful” workforce.

NightDragon is a leading venture capital firm for cybersecurity, security, safety, and privacy.

“The way I would say it is the Filipinos have an unbelievable ability to integrate in the global business systems like we do, maybe unmatched by any workforce on the planet,” Dewalt said.

Visa CEO Ryan McInerney said generative AI will be a leveling force for small businesses, noting that Filipinos now use the largest platforms to buy things online.

He said generative AI will give microbusinesses, nano businesses, and small businesses the tools and capabilities to provide Filipinos a “rich” shopping and commerce experience.

‘Ready for AI’

Marcos stressed the need for capability improvements, as he acknowledged the vulnerability of both the government and private sector to cybersecurity threats.

He said the Philippines is currently embracing the AI revolution to augment the existing skills of the Filipinos, increase the productivity of enterprises, and enhance the competitiveness of the economy.

“The Philippines is ready to become your partner in navigating the AI future. As we look to the horizon, let’s ‘Make It Happen in the Philippines,’ where the promise of a future defined by technological inclusivity and shared growth is not just envisioned but actively realized,” Marcos said.

“Currently, the Philippines is embracing this future of AI with the crafting of the National AI Strategy that seeks to augment the existing skill set of Filipino talents with AI. This strategy also aims to position the Philippines as a Center of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence,” he added.

Marcos said the gathering with the businessmen is a momentous occasion as the Philippine economy celebrates a milestone, marking its highest growth rate since 1976 with a 7.6-percent increase in the country’s gross domestic product in 2022.

He added that the Philippine economic standing, accompanied by USD9.2 billion in foreign direct investments last year, “narrates a story of economic resilience and dynamism.”

This remarkable growth, it mirrors the persistent dedication of this Administration, harmonized with our private sector partners and with their initiatives, to cultivate a business ecosystem that is not only conducive but also competitive and innovative,” Marcos said.

Marcos assured foreign investors of easier business transactions in the Philippines, noting the fiscal incentives and ease of doing business in the country.

“To our current and future partners, I hope that this meeting will serve as an opportunity to create a shared vision for a future where the Philippine workforce is empowered, skilled, and ready to shape the digital age,” he said.

“We stand on the cusp of the Artificial Intelligence revolution and that promises untold advancements, but it also presents some rather unexpected challenges. It hinges on a workforce equipped with the necessary skills and an ecosystem that embraces technological inclusivity.”

The roundtable meeting was co-organized by Dewalt, Bain and Company CEO Emmanuel Maceda, Crescent Point Group vice chairperson Thomas Pompidou, and the Department of Trade and Industry.

Also present during the meeting were Microsoft managing director Michelle Gonzalez, Mandiant (A Google Company) CEO Kevin Mandia, Group of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) head Chris Emanuel, Plug and Play Ventures CEO Saeed Amidi, Altimeter CEO Brad Gerstner, HP (formerly Hewlett-Packard) CEO Enrique Lores, Mastercard co-president Ling Hai, and Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei.