Daily Archives: November 12, 2012

Australia’s future rides on the NBN

According to Australian IBM chief Andrew Stevens, the Australian economy in the future will be ICT based. Let’s hope the government also ensures support is provided to get the entire workforce ICT enabled and ready for this future economy.

From IT Wire

NBN is key to Australian productivity growth: IBM ANZ chief


Andrew StevensAndrew Stevens

The National Broadband Network will be the defining factor underpinning Australia’s future economic growth, according to the boss of IBM in Australia and New Zealand.


According to Andrew Stevens, managing director of IBM ANZ, innovation in the services sector will be the major economic growth driver as the resources boom fades in the current decade.

Speaking in Melbourne at a monthly AmCham (American Chamber of Commerce) lunch last week, Mr Stevens indicated that the NBN and ICT will be the cornerstones of innovation in Australia.

“While there has been strong growth in resources, the rest of our patchwork economy has been growing at less than 2% a year,” said Mr Stevens.

“It’s also important to recognise that mining makes up less than 10% of our economy. So, how do we support the whole the economy and ensure our prosperity?

“The answer is innovation.

“But where is the next wave of economy-wide, nation-changing innovation going to come from?

“I’ll argue today that it will be built on information and communications technology – ICT including high-speed broadband.”

According to Mr Stevens, Australia has evolved beyond agriculture and resources into an advanced services based economy – and growth in services driven by ICT innovation is our future.

“We don’t ride on the sheep’s back or even the backs of miners. We ride on the backs of engineers, lawyers, IT experts, tourism operators, bankers, doctors, architects, academics and other smart professionals who sell and deliver services,” said Mr Stevens.

“If we want to stay on the GDP path we’ve become accustomed to then we need to be world-class in high-value services.”

Mr Stevens cited a Reserve Bank report, which noted that changes in technology help improve productivity most when they enable us to alter work processes.

“In other words, technology has a major impact when it allows us to introduce new business models,” he said.

“I believe that the ICT we have now – and the technology which is coming with faster broadband and other innovations – can have that effect.”

According to Mr Stevens, high speed broadband will be responsible for generating 20% of Australia’s GDP by 2050.

“Right now, one of the biggest new technological possibilities is high-speed broadband.

“Internet and broadband will continue to be one of the most important drivers of economic change for Australia – and the world – in the next decade or so.

“Almost every sector in our economy stands to gain from broadband.

“By 2050, Australia’s GDP should be $5.3 trillion in today’s terms – compared to our $1.4 trillion economy of 2011.

“Broadband will be central to the generation of $1.25 trillion of that – or a fifth of our future economy.”

Mr Stevens singled out mining, retail, healthcare, education and public administration and safety as key sectors that will benefit from Australia’s broadband revolution.

“With broadband, we are now moving into what could be called the infotronics age – where the utility is very fast communications and very powerful computers and systems” he said.

“What this latest utility does / is reduce our need to move things.

“We can move bits and bytes instead of ourselves or other physical objects.”

Learning English on the cheap in the Philippines

Reading this article from the BBC just confirms why there is a large South Korean community in the Philippines. Aside from the big investments made in shipyards and semiconductors, one reason is because its the ideal place for Koreans to learn English on a cheap budget.


The Philippines: The world’s budget English teacher

Kate McGeownBy Kate McGeownBBC News, Philippines

The Philippines is fast becoming the world’s low-cost English language teacher – with rapid increases in overseas students coming to learn English or study in English-speaking universities.

There might be other countries that people think about as a classic place to learn English, such as the UK, the US or Australia.

But there is one key reason that they are switching to the Philippines. It’s much cheaper. And in the competitive market for language students, it means the Philippines is attracting people from countries such as Iran, Libya, Brazil and Russia.

“We have very competitive rates compared with other countries,” says English teacher, Jesy King, citing her school’s fees of $500 (£313) for a 60-hour class – about a third of the price of an equivalent course in the US or Canada.

Another major advantage is the accent.

Filipinos speak with a clear American accent – partly because the Philippines was a US colony for five decades, and partly because so many people here have spent time working in call centres that cater to a US market.

Call centres

These centres train their staff to sound indistinguishable from Americans, so callers never realise that the person they’re speaking to is on the other side of the world.

“I have a background in call centres, so I’ve learnt to adopt an American accent – it’s one of the pre-requisites when you join,” says Jesy King.

Her school, the International Language Academy of Manila, attracts students from all over the world.

The majority are from Asia – especially Japan, Taiwan and Korea – but in the past few months she’s also taught people from North Africa, South America and the Middle East.

Student numbers are growing rapidly. According to the Philippine Immigration Bureau, more than 24,000 people have applied for a study permit this year – compared to fewer than 8,000 just four years ago.

The government sees this sector as a golden opportunity for growth.

Increasing demand

“We’re geared to accept more and more students,” says Cristino Panlilio, the under-secretary for the Department of Trade and Industry. “I believe the country should come up with more marketing for this.”

And it’s not just English language students who are coming to the Philippines – there’s also been a rapid increase in the number of foreigners applying for graduate and post-graduate courses in all kinds of fields.

The main reasons that attract them are, again, the cost – and the fact that, in the country’s top universities, all classes are held in English.

In order to study at a university here, foreigners need a full student visa, and immigration records show that three times as many foreigners applied for one in 2011 than they did just three years before.

Dr Alvin Culaba, the executive vice-president of De La Salle – one of the country’s top universities – is confident that the level of teaching in his institution can compete with that found anywhere in the world.

“Our programmes are very comparable, or sometimes even better, than in the US and Europe,” he says.

Driving a bargain

De La Salle already has a lot of students from China and Japan, but there’s recently been an increase in Europeans.

Elizaveta Leghkaya, a Russian engineering student, is one of them.

She looked at courses in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but the programme at De La Salle was a quarter of the price of the others.

“Here it’s much cheaper, and I’m really confident that the qualification I’ll get is just the same,” she says.

She had found other benefits of studying in the Philippines too.

“It’s a good experience, as it’s a different style of life than I’d get in Europe. It’s interesting to learn the culture. I like to travel here, and go to the beaches and museums.”

But studying in the Philippines isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Living here means coping with the bureaucracy and corruption, and if you’re in Manila, the heavy pollution.

And then there’s the fact that many Filipinos speak a rather different language than the rest of the English-speaking world.

The Philippines markets itself as being the third largest English-speaking nation – after the US and the UK – a fact proudly displayed on the Department of Tourism website. And in a way, that’s true. Most people speak at least rudimentary English, and the well-educated speak it fluently.

Taglish speakers

But a lot of people speak Taglish – a mix of English and the local language Tagalog – which is often difficult for foreigners to understand.

English signs often have the wrong spellings and the way English words are used is sometimes uniquely Filipino, with confusing and occasionally unintentionally amusing results.

One of the national newspapers used the headline “Police Clueless” for a story about the police officers not having any specific clues about a case.

For a foreign student trying to learn English, this will undoubtedly present some challenges.

But for an increasing number of people, these are small obstacles compared with the benefits of studying in the Philippines.

The spiralling cost of education in many parts of the world, coupled with the ease of finding out about foreign courses on the internet, mean that more and more students are deciding to study abroad.

And English-speaking nations like the Philippines are primed to cash in on this trend.

Making the positive changes made for future Presidents to follow

I had to look up in the dictionary what epochal meant but I already had a guess of what it meant from reading the article. Suffice it to say, while probably every Filipino is proud of having Noynoy Aquino as the current Philippine president for the positive effect he has made to the country, a even bigger opportunity awaits him in what he will do in the remaining period of his term. Unlike in the US, he will have no chance of a second term to have a longer time to effect changes in running the country. The challenge is now for him to consolidate the gains made permanent for his future successors to follow.

From BusinessWorld Philippines

November 11, 2012

PNoy, an epochal president

AN ARTICLE from The New York Times titled “Now, a Chance to catch up to His Epochal Vision” (Nov. 7, 2012) caught my attention. Written by Jodi Kantor, the essay depicts US President Barack Obama’s quest for history, as seen from his series of private meetings with distinguished presidential historians.

Wrote Kantor: “The President was coolly eyeing American history in order to carve his own grand place in it.” Now that he has been reelected, Obama, in the words of Robert Caro, one of the historians who attended the meetings, “has only one thing to run for: a place in history.”

Obama’s first term has been tumultuous. He could not push his reform agenda decisively because of the belligerence of reactionary ideologues in Congress, in the media, and at the grassroots, specifically the Tea Party. Hence, even the best of his interventions — universal health care, fiscal stimulus, and budget reform — had to be diluted.

Said Kantor: “Now Mr. Obama, a specialist in long shots, faces what may be the climactic challenge of his political career: a second chance to deliver the renewal he still promises, but without a clear mandate, a healthy economy or willing Republican partners.”

Kantor’s insightful essay about Obama’s eye for history has led me to ask whether our own PNoy also has that Obama vision.

Perhaps, PNoy’s perspective regarding the long run and his place in history is secondary. The question then is: Will PNoy, independent of his wish, become an epochal president? Will he secure a niche as one of the few great Philippine presidents?

The answer is yes. Of course, this will depend on what he will be doing for the rest of his term.

History is on his side. He is the son of a most-loved Cory, less popular then than sister Kris. He was an underestimated senator who had no presidential ambition. Yet he was swept to the presidency in the wake of his mom’s death, and he became the symbol of the good.

In the first half of his presidency, he continues to do good, even though his daang matuwid can be bumpy. Making Gloria Arroyo and her minions like Renato Corona accountable, reducing corruption, running after tax evaders and improving tax revenue collection, and pushing for hard legislative reforms not only satisfy short-term objectives but also solidify institutions for the long term.

Yet a much better future has to be secured. We wish to avoid what happened in our modern history — a good presidency like Cory Aquino’s was not sustained. What followed was a series of bad presidents, reaching a nadir during the term of Arroyo.

The possibility of the PNoy presidency being replaced by a less than desirable one is real. Imagine if the elections were held tomorrow. Hands down, Jejomar Binay wins. Binay professes closeness to PNoy and his family, but his coterie is made up of the forces of Gloria and Erap. This will no longer be daang matuwid.

Instead of extending daang matuwid, Binay will build grand expensive boulevards with lots of zigzags and U-turns. At best, we can expect a regime that will ignite short-run growth but characterized by corruption and rent seeking.

It’s common to hear the quip of tainted politicians, contractors, and policemen who are compelled to behave well under daang matuwid: “It’s a matter of time-happy days will be here again.”

Since we want PNoy to become an epochal president, we want him to be strategic. We want to ensure that the gains from his administration will endure beyond his presidency. That Kim Henares’ reforms in the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Butch Abad’s open government program will remain in place, regardless of who succeeds PNoy.

In this light, it is necessary, for instance, for the present Congress to pass the Freedom of Information bill. True, many government entities have become transparent under the PNoy administration. But such practice can be reversed by a future administration that prefers being opaque. Legislating freedom of information will preserve PNoy’s legacy of transparency.

Other reforms cry out to be done. With certainty though requiring a lot of vigilance, the sin tax reform will be passed. But time seems to be running out for other important measures.

What is needed is an extra push from PNoy and his allies. After all, much political capital has been spent in advancing freedom of information, reproductive health, and the rationalization of fiscal incentives.

Some might argue that the aforementioned measures can be re-introduced in the next Congress. Tactically, this is unsound. Because we want to be strategic, these reforms have to be passed at the soonest. We avoid overloading the reform agenda for the second half of PNoy’s presidency by having some of the reforms passed now.

The issues that the PNoy administration will grapple with for the second half of its term are tough. The over-valuation of the Philippine peso can only be stemmed through bold actions, requiring the collective effort of the Executive and the central bank. An energy crisis is looming, amid the increasing demand for power as economic activities grow. The intervention in the power sector requires political skills. And undoubtedly, building a reform coalition before the 2016 elections will preoccupy PNoy.

Unlike Obama who faces severe political constraints, PNoy enjoys favorable conditions to promote the hard reforms. PNoy is very popular and has the cooperation of Congress. He also benefits from the bullish investors’ sentiments amid the administration’s solid economic performance.

To borrow Kantor’s words but used in a different context, “the tick of hours or days” in passing reforms like the sin tax, freedom of information, and reproductive health contributes to “the sweep of years” that will make PNoy an epochal President.

Article location : http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Opinion&title=PNoy, an epochal president&id=61231

Automatic Fare Collection System PPP

There are currently 23 PPP (Public Private Partnership) with 2 already awarded based on information provided by the Philippine PPP center. Among the many, this particular PPP project is something I am interested in being a former banker. Hopefully, I want to find a suitable Australian partner to submit a bid and win it to do this. The special attraction of doing this is the opportunity to leverage the service with similar applications for electronic banking and even mobile phone applications. With the majority of the population still unbanked (no bank account) while having the most number of mobile handsets the opportunities to cater to all 3 is a game changer. Watch this space.


DOTC to bid out P1.7 billion MRT-LRT ticketing project in January

By Lawrence Agcaoili (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 12, 2012

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is set to bid out early next year a P1.7 billion contract for the establishment of a single ticketing system for both the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and the Light Rail Transit (LRT).

Transportation undersecretary Rene Limcaoco told participants of the PPP and Infrastructure Forum sponsored by the British Embassy that the government intends to bid out the contract for the common ticketing facility for the MRT and LRT.

“We expect to bid out this project by early next year or optimistically by January,” Limcaoco stressed.

He pointed out that the proposed facility would make it easier for commuters using the MRT and LRT lines who have to suffer from long lines as a result of the different tickets for the mass transport system.

“Lining up to buy tickets takes 30-to 45 minutes,” he lamented.

The MRT-LRT single ticket is envisioned to be like Hong Kong’s Octopus Card which serves as a debit card aside from being a stored-value train ticket.

He said single ticket could also be used for electronic banking and shopping.

“The winning bidder could expand this for other uses such as banking, shopping, paying for services or goods, paying for parking, among others.

The riding public has long urged government to implement a common ticketing system for the LRT lines 1 and 2 and the MRT 3.

The different ticketing schemes employed in the three mass transport systems have been blamed for the long lines of passengers buying tickets at the train stations.

The MRT line that runs from Baclaran in Pasay City to North Ave. in Quezon City services around 500,000 passengers per day way above its capacity of 350,000.

On the other hand, LRT line 1, which runs from Baclaran in Pasay City to Roosevelt in Quezon City, serves at least 500,000 passengers daily while the LRT line 2, which operates from Recto in Manila to Santolan in Pasig City, caters to 350,000.

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