Digital Pilipinas officially launched its Innovative Cities initiative in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry – Board of Investments (DTI-BOI) to tech up one city at a time, linking the local government units, the academe, and the private sector in creating multiple centers of excellence. The City of Makati was chosen as the program’s pilot in collaboration with the Resiliency Innovation Sustainability & Entrepreneurship (RISE) Certification Program.
The Innovative Cities initiative aims to raise the Philippines’ innovation and technology quotient to strengthen local economies and grow their industries, while focusing on making the country relevant in digitalization and Web 3.0 conversation.
“The only way we can collectively increase the country’s technology and innovation quotient is if we localize the response to innovation and technology,” Amor Maclang, Digital Pilipinas and World Fintech Festival Convenor, Fintech Philippines Association Executive Director and Trustee, and GeiserMaclang Co-founder said in her opening remarks.
“Together with our partners, we look forward to creating regionally relevant solutions for everyone; and, at the city and provincial level that can then plug into a more extensive national and international ecosystem,” she continued. “Technology will not wait for anyone, and the Philippines has left the station, and we need to keep track,” Maclang added to emphasize the urgency in adopting technology and innovation.
Yani de Guzman, CEO and co-founder of investment holding company RONIN, said the program was created to gather creative minds and provide them financial access through funding and mentoring.
“What we hope to do is to provide them [startups] the P500,000 financial aid when they reach certain milestones to ensure that the grant is helping them create a sustainable business, develop their structures, and form a solid legal foundation for their businesses. We will show and give them an opportunity to pitch [their ideas] in front of qualified investors.”
DTI-BOI Usec. Fita Aldaba underscored the critical role of technology in building a city or a nation, adding that the government views emerging technologies “as drivers to achieve sustainable development.”
She went on to say, “We can create new products and solutions in smart building, digital health, and vehicle tech. The acceleration of digital innovation paved the way for the digital economy in the Philippines, with revenues projected to reach USD 25B by 2025.”
Makati Mayor Abigail Binay noted that the startup route is the best way to explore opportunities. She said, “I hope for the Philippines to rise higher in the global economic scene. We believe that we can enable the startup ecosystem to help businesses thrive and get ahead in the curve.”
Makati City’s Legal Officer Atty. Michael Camina echoes Mayor Binay’s sentiments on teching up the city towards global standards. He shared some of the steps that the LGU has been taking to tech up its services, particularly in the shift towards an innovative mindset.
“We have an online system for booking for the Ospital ng Makati. But we know that there are still so many things people can do; that’s why it is important to hear them pitch their ideas and support them in further education.”
Maclang is looking at the 31 cities identified by the Digital Cities Program of the Department of Information and Communications Technology, particularly for information technology-business process management (IT-BPM) companies outside of Metro Manila. Nine of them have successfully completed their five-year roadmaps: Balanga, Batangas, General Santos, Iligan, Legazpi, Puerto Princesa, Taytay Rizal, Tuguegarao, and Zamboanga.
Nap Juanillo, Assistant Secretary for Competitiveness and Innovation Group of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI-OACIG), agrees with the Digital Pilipinas Innovative Cities initiative to localize innovation, saying, “The ideas should emanate from the locals because they are the ones who understand the pain points of the region. The people in the regions have smarts and can develop products. And we want to be able to translate these into policies into doable, attainable plans.”
In the same way that the Digital Pilipinas’ Innovative Cities initiative will be developed for other LGUs, de Guzman also makes it clear that the RISE Challenge, while establishing its base in Makati City, is open to entrepreneurs all over the Philippines: “This pandemic has prompted a more conscious desire for Filipinos to support local entrepreneurs. We should take advantage of their ideas, strike while the iron is hot, and we will be there to assist you in your journey.”
Maclang also pointed out the partnership’s vision for Makati. “We are looking forward to creating a sandbox environment to inspire entrepreneurs to develop disruptive ideas and not be afraid to take risks because the DTI has put in place policies to support their journey. They say it takes a village to run a successful business. Luckily, we’re bringing in the entire city of Makati and the support of national line agencies to help these businesses.’