Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pushing for E-commerce, the Erap Way

This article was supposed to be published at Business Online Asia. Due to unpredictable circumstances, this article didn't reach the destination on-time. As a blessing in disguise, I decided to feature this article here at My sincerest thanks and appreciation to Presidential Consultant Chito Kintanar for making it possible for me to achieve this feat of being able to write this.

[May 13, 2000] Joseph Ejercito Estrada, President of the Republic of the Philippines, couldn't have been in a much better time to become the leader of this country. With the boom of the Internet, e-commerce, world trade, and other pressuring issues, the only way for him to cope up with the challenges is to operate in Internet time. To those who thinks that the Philippines is still the typical Juan Tamad even in the arena of e-commerce, well think again, the country's CEO is embracing it more than ever. Estrada sees electronic commerce as an important driving force that could fuel the Philippines' economic growth and development. "For an emerging economy like the Philippines, this is a development we cannot afford to ignore since it presents a huge opportunity for us. This is particularly significant since we are positioning our country to serve as host to various service-oriented businesses, especially IT and related industries."

E-commerce Bill
The legal framework for the country's participation in electronic commerce is also around the corner with the passage in the Senate of the E-Commerce bill. The bill defines Philippines policies on electronic transactions and will enable us to participate actively in this global trend for trade and commerce. Currently, the bill is at the deliberation stage at the House of Representatives. The Senate version has already been passed last April 2000.

Can the Philippines government adopt e-commerce?
One of the higlights of the bill seeks to mandate the government to become e-commerce enabled by 2002. To allow it to compete with other countries in the region. But there has been a lot of skepticism about whether the government can do a full re-engineering of its business process to competitively apply e-commerce.

"I created last October 1999 the Presidential Committee for Effective Governance (PCEG), through Executive Order No. 165, which I have directed to immediately formulate and implement measures not requiring legislation to streamline, simplify, and strengthen government business processes and speed up the delivery of key services to the public. One key area that the committee is now looking at is the wider application of ICT to improve business processes in government," said Estrada.

There are already several initiatives in government in the application of e-commerce. The Garments and Textile Export Board of the Department of Trade and Industry set-up the GTEBNet, an electronic network for textile quota administration, export documentation and import authorization. The project has been operational since 1994. The Social Security System, on the other hand, is in the process of implementing on-line kiosks that will allow its members to do their transactions digitally, in lieu of the traditional over-the-counter transactions.

Last November 5, 1998, Estrada personally launched the first Internet-based low-denominated Philippine Treasury Issues Trading System. According to Estrada, "This will allow our small savers, anywhere in the country, to participate in this innovative treasury notes trading system. This is a project of the Bureau of the Treasury, in cooperation with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Bankers Association of the Philippines."

Are there special factors holding back the Philippines in doing e-commerce?
One of the factors identified is the limited access to and high cost of telecommunications services. He said, "Under my administration's Medium Term Philippine Development Plan, or "Angat Pinoy 2004", we have set as our priority over the next 4-5 years the development of our Philippine Information Infrastructure (PII). The PII would consist of physical telecommunications links, multipoint multimedia distribution systems, and value-added services such as Internet access and e-commerce. We have also set as our target the establishment of local exchange services in all our municipalities by the end of my term. To accomplish these, we are encouraging private and foreign investment in the telecommunications sector. We are studying the possibility of increasing foreign ownership in telecommunications and other utilities beyond the 40 percent limit."

The Philippines' Advantage/Disadvantage on E-commerce
The Philippines clearly enjoys a number of advantages in pursuing e-business, particularly with international partners.

Estrada highlights, "First, we have a policy environment fully committed to the principles of open market systems and which encourages creation and innovation, two factors that are very critical for e-business to flourish. This commitment is evidenced by the investment-related reforms that we have instituted and continue to pursue."

Investment incentives have been rationalized with the passage of the Omnibus Investment Code in July 1987 and the Foreign Investment Act of 1992, increasing the allowable foreign equity participation in non-priority investment areas up to the limits set by the Constitution.

In the area of trade and industry, the Philippines continues to pursue two major strategies, which are trade liberalization and tariff reform. These are aimed at promoting more dynamic, efficient, and competitive industries.

"Regarding intellectual property rights (IPR) protection to encourage creation and innovation, particularly in software and multi-media development, R&D, and design, we have in place Republic Act No. 8293, otherwise known as the new Intellectual Property (IPR) Code of the Philippines, which imposes stiffer penalties on IPR violations." The Intellectual Property Office (IPO), considered the guardian of IPR in the Philippines, has also been established pursuant to the said Code.

"Over and above all this, the Philippines enjoys a strong competitive advantage over most of its Asian neighbors in terms of its highly educated, easily trainable, very creative, multi-skilled, English-speaking manpower and managerial pool, all of which are essential to e-business and other knowledge-based industries. Wage and salary levels remain competitive, while worker productivity, creativity and a growing track record of successful IT work are the hallmarks of the country's labor force as known and recognized worldwide."

Philippines main disadvantages at present are limited access to and high cost of telecommunications services. "We are now addressing these by further opening up our telecommunications sector to foreign direct investments and partnerships that will further spur the development of our telecommunications infrastructure. Such development will certainly redound to the benefit of the greater mass of our people and result in the wider use and application of e-commerce and other value-added services," said Estrada.

Phone metering: to meter or not?
Estrada directed the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to defer the implementation of the telephone metering scheme until a more comprehensive study is conducted. To date, the NTC is conducting public hearings and soliciting policy guidance from the Department of Transportation and Communication, which is responsible for developing telecommunications policy and for supervising the bureaucracy of the NTC.

Are Filipino businessmen endangered with the near implementation of the Retail Trade Law? Will it kill local businesses?
Estrada answered, "The entry of foreign retailers, with their global experience and technologies, should not be viewed as a threat to our local retailers, or to local business in general. I have in fact urged and continue to urge our local businessmen to view this as a challenge, to re-engineer their business processes, and bring to higher levels of efficiency their operations for them to compete in a rapidly globalizing marketplace. It is clearly to their advantage, and more importantly, to the benefit of the mass of Filipino consumers that they now start re-inventing themselves and prepare for the rapid changes in the use of information and communications technology, as well as the application of e-commerce in their operations."

"The government is, nonetheless, doing everything to put in place measures to make them compete in equal footing with these foreign investors. In terms of telecommunications infrastructure, I mentioned earlier that projects are underway to ensure access to the digital world. Old policies are being reviewed and at the same time, new policies are being drafted to ensure equal protection to the providers, consumers and the government."

The amendments to the Retail Trade Law provide safety nets to protect small retailers. These include among others:

  • The imposition of a minimum paid-up capital of US$7.5 million for 100% foreign-owned retailers (category C); US$2.5 million for retailers whose foreign equity participation for the first two years from effectivity of the law is limited to 60%, but thereafter, they shall be allowed to be 100% foreign-owned (category B) or US$250 thousand for 100% foreign-owned retailers selling high-end luxury goods (category D);
  • The foreign retailers shall maintain the minimum, prescribed capital while operating in the Philippines and its actual use shall be monitored by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC);
  • For a period of 10 years from effectivity of the Act, at least 30% of the inventory of retailers falling under Categories B&C and 10% for category D should be locally manufactured.
  • Qualified foreign retailers shall not be allowed to engage in certain retailing activities outside its accredited stores through mobile or rolling stores or carts, the use of sales representatives, door-to-door selling, restaurants and sari-sari stores

"I wish to specifically cite the efforts made by the SM group of companies in setting up the SVI-Net to connect SM Supermarket and its 150 suppliers," Estrada commended. SM Supermarket uses the system for inventory control and to trigger the issuance of purchase orders to suppliers. The system is expected to provide electronic price catalogs, and provide dispatch and delivery scheduling and advice."

A number of large department stores and supermarkets have also banded together with five major suppliers and have set up SmartLink to handle electronic fund transfers, remittance and credit advice, and accounts reconciliation. On the supplier end, the electronic link will maximize the resources of the supplier at any given time. Upon delivery, the pullout of returns can also be done eliminating the need for special trips, translating into substantial savings in operating costs, and lower prices to their consumers.

The E-commerce Czar
Estrada announced in the recent Knowlege Economy Conference, last May 8, 2000, that is has directed Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Mar Roxas to consolidate the number of dispersed e-commerce efforts of the national government under a reactivated and expanded E-Commerce Promotion Council, of which Roxas is Chair. Foremost on the agenda is to fulfill the mandate to formulate and coordinate the implementation of a national program and strategy for the promotion of e-Commerce in the Philippines. This plan is expected to be submitted by Secretary Roxas by the end of June 2000.

The Secretary of DTI, as Chairman of the E-Commerce Promotion Council, is effectively the E-Commerce Czar. E-Commerce activities are coordinated at the level of the Council. Estrada noted, "However, we need to further strengthen the Council by providing it with full-time technical, secretariat support and the necessary funding support. We also need to strengthen the linkage between the E-Commerce Promotion Council with the National Information Technology Council to ensure consistency in policy directions."

Estrada's Vision
The Estrada E-commerce agenda revolves around the IT21 framework, the transformation of the country into a knowledge center in Asia by the first decade of the 21st century. This strategy is defined in the country's National Information Technology Plan for the 21st Century, or IT21, which calls for the exploitation of the country's potentials to become a key player in the digital business world.

These potentials consist mainly of the country's rich human resources, as well as highly trainable, hard-working, and English proficient professionals and workers. Moreover, the country's strategic geographic location and our accessibility to large and potentially rich markets with high population densities further support and reinforce this strategy.

More specifically, IT21 presents Philippines' broad strategy to spur the country to global competitiveness through information and communications technology (ICT). It sets down specific time frames for achieving its three specific goals:

  • By the turn of the 21st century, the Philippines will have laid the infrastructure to provide opportunities for every business, every agency of government, every school, and every home in the Philippines to have access to information technology.
  • By the year 2005, IT use will be pervasive in daily life. Philippine companies will be producing competitive IT products for world markets.
  • Within the first decade of the 21st Century, the Philippines will be a Knowledge Center in the Asia-Pacific: the leader in IT education, in IT-assisted training, and in the application of information and knowledge to business, professional services, and the arts.

Achievements to Date
At the policy level, the government has put in place the environment and clear directions to help develop and accelerate the use of information and communications technology (ICT), the Internet and its applications, particularly e-commerce. It has now a more focused program for ICT development in the country with the adoption of IT21, which the President endorsed when he issued Executive Order (EO) No. 125 in August 1999. The EO intends to streamline and strengthene the institutional mechanism for coordinating ICT development in the country. This is done through the National Information Technology Council (NITC). Its membership composed of key ICT players both in the government and the private sector.

The deregulation of the telecommunications industry starting in 1987, and which the government continues to pursue, paved the way for a hefty build-up in investments in this sector, estimated to exceed P130 billion over the next 5-10 years. By the end of 1999, telephone density per 100 people increased to 9.18 working lines from 1.21 recorded in 1993 and 4.66 in 1996. This is expected to reach 12.73 in 2004 as provided under our "Angat Pinoy 2004" Medium Term Philippine Development Plan to meet the growing demand for telephone and other value-added services like Internet access and e-commerce.

Internet usage in the Philippines has been increasing exponentially over the years since 1994. The number of Philippine Internet Service Providers (ISP) increased from 2 in 1994 to 130 in 1997 to over 180 by the end of 1999. The services offered include full Internet access, e-mail service and walk-in access. Likewise, the number of local web sites had increased. Furthermore, more and more ISPs are expanding their services to include not only access but content provision and the provision of e-commerce and payment gateways as well.

The number of Philippine-related web sites is increasing by over 200% annually, from only a handful in 1994 to over 500 in January 1998. Internet subscribers reached 240,000 by year-end 1997, is expected to rise to 650,000 by the end of the year 2000, and to 1.3 million by the end of 2004.

The first Philippine Internet Exchange (PhIX) was launched in July 1997. PhIX is a network access point that allows local Internet service providers to exchange local Internet traffic within the Philippines without having to connect to host servers overseas. Thus, local Internet users will have faster access to content and exchange of information. The PhIX was established by the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) and interconnects the country's largest ISPs.

Early last year, the first Electronic Claims System was launched in the Philippines by Medilink, a cooperative project of the Zuellig Group and the Equitable Card Network. Medilink is a computerized claims clearing house network system for hospitals, health management organizations (HMOs), health insurers, self-insured corporations, clinics, and independent physicians associations. It is the first to provide electronic eligibility, electronic claims processing, and electronic funds transfer in the Philippines. It is expected to directly benefit some 2.0 to 2.5 million Filipinos who are presently covered by HMOs and non-life insurance plans. The country at the moment has around 40 HMOs. This number is expected to double in a couple of years. The annual business turnover of the HMO sector is estimated at P2 billion.

In October 1999, Estrada issued Proclamation No.171 creating and designating Eastwood Cyber City in Quezon City, as the first Information Technology (IT) Park in the country. This master-planned urban area, a project of Megaworld Properties, is strategically situated a few minutes away by car from Manila's major universities and is also very accessible to the Makati and Ortigas business districts and major routes to the Manila international and domestic airports. Designed mainly to cater to locators engaged in IT software and multi-media R&D companies, which could avail of special incentives under Republic Act No. 7916 (Philippine Economic Zone Act of 1995), as amended by Republic Act No. 8748, it combines residential, business, commercial and leisure components. Developers of the Cyber Park also plan to set up in the campus-like site a university of information and communications technology. "I have approved three so far, namely the Eastwood Cyber Park in Quezon City, the Northgate Cyber Zone in Alabang and the Fort Bonifacio-Silicon Alley IT Park in the Fort Bonifacio, Taguig - where competitive financial and tax incentives are offered. The first Software Development Park has also been established at the Subic Economic Zone. And the Ayala Group has announced the proposed development of an IT park in Cebu," said Estrada.

In the hardware sector, the semiconductor and electronics industry has been growing at the rate of 30% - 40% per annum since 1993. Products worth nearly $20 billion constituted nearly 70% of the country's total exports in 1998. Exports rose to $23 billion in 1999 and is expected to grow to over $47 billion in 2004. The nearly 512 companies involved in the industry have a total investment of over $7 billion and employ over 280,000 skilled and semi-skilled workers.

America Online operates a customer response system at Clark. Some 600 Filipinos, manning workstations in the Philippines, answer queries for AOL from all over the globe on a 24-hour basis.

The explicit inclusion of professional IT services in the investment priorities plan for FY 2000. This means that IT related activities will enjoy prime incentives from the Board of Investments.

The launching of a series of focused IT investment missions to the United States, Korea, Japan, Europe and Australia, which will promote the Philippines as the IT service hub in Asia.

The creation of an ICT innovation and development fund to provide venture capital for ICT business start-ups and support for ICT research. The National Development Corporation under the DTI has already identified IT as a priority and is exploring mechanisms to reach techno-entrepreneurs.

Finally, IT related activities have been highlighted under the proposed amendments to the Omnibus Incentives Act. "Our legislators anticipate that these amendments will take effect by the 3rd quarter of this year, and will feature a number of non-fiscal incentives to match, if not surpass, that offered by others in the region," said Estrada.

DOST's Comprehensive Program to Enhance Technology Enterprises or Project COMPETE seeks to develop two very important sectors of the knowledge economy: microelectronics and information technology. Over a period of five years, investments amounting to around Php 7 billion will be made for the operation of Virtual Centers for Technology Innovation, or VCTI, for the two sectors. The VCTI in microelectronics will catalyze research and development, original product design, and develop our capability in Application Specific Integrated Circuit Design, or ASIC design - while the VCTI in information technology will develop capability for content design and software development. In partnership with IT industry leaders like Oracle and Sun Microsystems, the project will produce at least 5000 internationally certified IT professionals.

The DOST is also implementing a project that will enable Philippine research and academic institutions to participate in networking research and experimentation under a Japanese research initiative called the Asian Internet Interconnection Initiative. Through this, local researchers will gain operational experience that will be used in expanding the Internet and its use in the Philippines.

"This administration is firmly behind the effort of implementing e-commerce and boost knowledge. The key agencies have been empowered to get the job done. I am confident that we as a people are up to the task," Estrada ended.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

No to media and bloggers harassment

As a writer, I once in awhile encounter people who seek help to expose another person's activity, which they perceive to be out of line. I have some sort of a mental checklist on how to handle this especially when the outcome shall ruin a person's reputation and there's no anchor legal action.

This happened to me last month and was "told" to get clarification from Abe on this supposedly expose. During our discussion, it dawn to me that we were being pressured by this person and shall be done to more bloggers further. As Abe knows the angle of the issues much better, we agreed to just get it done and over with to end our agony. I wrote the mental checklist piece in my column that week to prepare myself and the readers should this blow out of proportion.

But I realized that the person who pressured us at that time didn't took any action after Abe posted the story. At the end of the day, harassing me resulted - to being used to push Abe to go ahead and write it - for the sake of publicity.

After two weeks, I got calls from my two editors who were also contacted and saw the sites. We discussed what happened and agreed on how to deal with it.

So I say, no to media and bloggers harassment!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Cebu Booming in the DotCom Economy

(The edited copy of this article was published at the Philippine Star last September 22, 2000)

[September 22, 2000] For those who claimed that Manila has all the potentials of becoming the Silicon Valley of the Philippines, think again. Cebu, the Queen of the South, is being considered as the province with the highest potential of becoming a true Silicon Valley of the Philippines.

Cebu, an unexpected player, boast of an estimated Internet user base of 200,000. This includes those who access the Internet though Internet Cafes at least once a week.

More than 400 Internet cafes can be found in the city charging from 10 pesos to 35 pesos an hour.

"The room is so tight in Metro Manila and I say we cannot really develop the Philippines if we only develop Metro Manila. You have to decentralize development," said Rex Drilon II, President of Cebu Property Ventures and Development Corporation. "Cebu, actually, is a more hospitable place for business. The cost of living is still manageable. Rest and recreation is very much accessible too. You can go to the beach, golf course, shopping center in less than an hour from the city."

Drilon added, "Even the department store saleslady, waiter, ordinary people here uses the Internet. I think Cebu is the only place that is really Internet and technology-savvy across all class of people."

Several dotcoms are springing up from this area. The likes of,,, are just some of the few booming on this part of the country. To ensure its growth, the players in the Internet community formed Cyberpromdi.Net, an organization whose intention is to promote e-commerce knowledge and help others in their dotcom initiatives.

Ayala Internet Venture Partners (AIVP) recently, launched its incubation initiative through IdeaFarm, Inc. last September 15, 2000. It is established to identify promising seed companies for the iAyala Group. The strategy is to invest in start or early stage companies and assist them until they are able to launch commercially.

The incubation center is located inside the Cebu Civic and Trade Center (CCTC) Information Technology Park, the first IT park outside of Luzon. There's another incubation center in Manila located in University of the Philippines.

More than 100 dotcoms aspirants from Cebu, Davao, Cagayan De Oro, General Santos attended the launch.

The IdeaFarm will be housing six dotcom incubatees where it will provide a combination of facilities and professional services. Facilities include office space, computers, servers, computer peripherals, high speed network and Internet connection, meeting rooms, and business center. Professional services include the set up of administrative, human resources, accounting system, legal and financial advice, market and business strategy planning, and investment matching.

Prospective incubatees will be screened based on the business plan and on the strength of the management team. It would prefer entrepreneurs who will be participating on a full time basis. To compensate, the IdeaFarm will provide salaries for full-time participation.

Depending on the type of development, the incubation process should last from six to twelve months.

Incubatees who will be able to produce and complete the final product will graduate from the facility. They are on the verge of of commercial launch. IdeaFarm will assist the launch of the product/service. In addition, it will provide assistance in managing the next round of fund-raising.

"We are definitely serious in helping the dotcom economy prosper in the South. Ultimately, our goal is to produce financially viable businesses that will thrive in the global market," said Jack Madrid, Executive Director of iAyala Company, Inc.

IgniteAsia Challenge Ends South Asia Leg

(This article was first published last March 4, 2001 in the old version of

Last September 19, 2000, local dotcoms went to The Peninsula to submit their entries to the IgniteAsia Challenge.

The contest for non-public Internet companies seeking funding, concluded last February 8, 2001 with the announcement that Vasunas and Nexlabs have won the prestigious six month competition that spanned eleven countries and 260 companies.

Demonstrating a superior quality in the presentation of their businesses, the two companies were selected last night at a gala dinner by a panel of judges and venture capitalists in the second challenge of the Ignite series. Vasunas won Category A, for companies with at least one round of external investor financing in excess of US$200,000, while NexLabs was the winner in Category B, for companies with less than US$200,000 in outside financing.

Winner of Category A, Vasunas, produces a series of attractive animated characters lined up especially for its users across mobile and Internet platforms. Breathing life into these characters is a combination of artificial intelligence, natural language learning, data mining as well as decision support. According to Mr Johnny Lau, CEO of Vasunas, the awards were an honour for the tremendous work and dedication given by the staff. Vasunas is thrilled to have won such a well recognised Award. With such strong competition for IgniteAsia, I would have to put down the small edge we gained to the dedication and commitment of all the staff at Vasunas.

Winner of Category B, NexLabs, is a specialist technology solution provider, developing the next generation of Intelligent Messaging tools. NexLabs TrackEngine consists of a patent-pending Content Analysis and Differential Engine that allows users to monitor any website and be automatically alerted of new content through their emails or mobile WAP devices. For Mr Raymond Wong, CEO of NexLabs, the Award signifies a platform to build the profile of the Company. Winning the IgniteAsia Challenge represents the opportunity to be exposed in ways we had never imagined. It will not only enabled NexLabs to meet with potential investors and raise our profile, but has also helped tremendously in some of those non-tangible areas such as presentation and networking skills.

The competition ran in two legs using Hong Kong as the hub for the first (North Asia) leg, and Singapore as the hub for the second (South Asia) leg. On the South Asia leg among the countries competing are Bangalore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta and Manila.

Philippine-based entries and didn't made it to the final round.

Following the success of the first two IgniteAsia challenges the Quintus Group has announced that it will be launching IgniteIndia and IgniteAustralia this year and will be returning to South East Asia in 2002.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

My Kids Web Camp Counselor Experience

(This was my first article in now defunct The Web magazine November/December 1997 issue. I've thought of organizing a similar version back in 1998 but it was too early at that time. Perhaps it may work in 2008. What do you think?)

Who said that online learning can't be fun? Wait till you make yourself part of Kid's Web Camp. I just finished my volunteer counselor activity with Microsoft Sitebuilder Network's Kids Web Camp. I got the chance to participate on this since I'm a Microsoft SiteBuilder Level 2 Member. It is a summer camp that lasted for one month (from July 15 to August 15, 1997). There were more or less a thousand kids who signed up for this camp at a price of $100.

Counselors are non-paid volunteers. We received the same software that the kids received such as the Kids Web Kit, Flying Colors, and Microsoft FrontPage. Counselors have special access as well to the chat rooms and newsgroups.

There were around 33 teams with 30 members each. The team names were very much amusing such as Lumu, Ring Tailed Lemurs, Manned Wolves, Okapi, Meercats, Pronghorns, Ocelots, Flying Fruit Bats, Manta Rays, Manatees, Anacondas, Monitor Lizards, Macaques, Blue Tangs, Trigger Fish, Whale Sharks, Kookaburras, Narwal, Wonbats, Wildebeest, Harper Eagles, Wolverines, Bandicoots, Peregrine Falcons, Spinner Dolphins, Quetzals, Skinks, Ospreys, River Otters, Andean Condor, Wolf Spiders, and Snow Leopards.

There are two counselors per team. I got assigned in the Poison Arrow Frogs Team. When the camp started last July 15, technical problems arised from the site being hard to access (too busy message errors pop-up every now and then) and it reached the point that the server conked out.

First week
The first week required the kids to express themselves. They have to introduce themselves by answering the thirty questions fact sheet such as their:

  • favorite sport
  • food
  • state/province/country of residence
  • pets
  • favorite subject in school
  • favorite song
  • free-time activity
  • number of brothers and sisters
  • countries visited
  • favorite dessert
  • favorite place
  • fame
  • person that they would like to meet
  • favorite band
  • favorite movie
  • things to do when with friends
  • ambition
  • summer vacation
  • likes
  • and many more
Kids were also required to familiarize themselves with online safety assisted by the CyberAngels.

There's an In Your Face Contest where kids have to visit other team members fact sheet and find two co-campers that have the same likes on favorite food, sport, and wall decoration.

Kids are also required to familiarize themselves with the Kids Web Kit and start creating their own pages that will either vie for the Craziest site or Most Informational Site. The kids also used the Flying Colors software to create the artwork that they would like to include in their web site.

Second week
The second week required the kids to upload their web pages and their artworks in the kids gallery. Kids were asked to visit their co-members pages and work.

They were also encouraged to send each other e-mails to introduce themselves to other campers.

Parents are also educated through e-mail information regarding Net safety for children, including URLs for NetNanny, SurfWatch, and CYBERsitter. Campers were also asked to send their parents email sharing their activities at Summer Camp.

Third week
Week three gave kids fun as they had their first online field trip to NASA and National Geographic. Kids experienced how to search for the information they need through the Yahooligans search engine. They use the site to search for information about the animals that their team represent and post the information in the teams homepage. This is the first time for kids to try a browser like Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Fourth week
Fourth week gave the campers an experience in enhancing their web pages using FrontPage. Kids were also introduced to a "Spinner" story telling. This is where kids got asked to read the first part of the story and create their version of the second episode - that encourages creativity and original ideas among campers. Campers afterwards have to read other campers' version and vote for the best story that will represent the team.

Fifth week
The fifth week or the grand finale is the biggest event topped by an All Team Scavenger Hunt. All campers were in a race to track down and find Spinner's key pals as they are scattered around the world's Web sites and it's up to the campers to find them. Throughout the hunt, campers register to win all kinds of prizes from co-sponsors, including videotapes, magazine subscriptions, and even a computer.

The first team to find all won a Pentium Computer. Campers then are send with wrap-up goodbye emails from counselors and exchanged emails with other campers. A goodbye chat session also transpired in this event.

My experience at Kid's Web Camp as a counselor opened my eyes to a lot of realities in online learning. The foul-up cases gave me a scenario on what not to do when setting up a camp. Through this experiences, I've thought of setting up my own version of a summer camp on called KidTech. Watch out for it!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Reflective Thinking - Fine Art of Blogging

I got interviewed last month at the Quasi Fictitional blog on my thoughts about blogging. Thanks Diogenes. Also to Dine Racoma for the referral.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Wiring Asia's Governments (March 1997)

(This was my first international writing assignment for the defunct World Executive Digest. These were my notes then. Part of it was used for the article "Wiring Asia's Governments".)

The Tiger of Asia has truly realized the importance of information technology and its hitting critical mass in government offices. The vision of the government towards SMART Philippines through I.T. will empower its people to work more productively, intelligently, and enjoy a better quality of life. "I.T. will fuel the achievement of the government's goal towards an online Philippines 2000," said Cynthia Topacio, Acting Managing Director of National Computer Center.

The Philippine government never took I.T. that seriously from the start. The officers of the government were scared of information technology at that time and find it too expensive and luxurious to be implemented.

There were a few government offices who began using I.T., but mostly those involved in developing computer programs in certain departments having access to it. There was no standard as well.

When the government officers realized the value of I.T., they have different interpretations. To each its own kind of hardware and software. But with the realization of a SMART Philippines vision, events are taking a major turnaround.

I.T. Champions
Through the Fidel V. Ramos' administration, the Philippines found I.T. champions which new I.T. leaders in the Senate, Congress, and members of the cabinet. The new IT champions s the battlecry for better government through full utilization of IT. Senators and congressmen are now filing bills that intends to create better computer systems and strategies for the government.

NITP 2000
To support this I.T. momentum, it created the National I.T. Council (NITC) with its TIGERS committees (Telecommunications, Industry, Government, Education, Research, Service).

TIGERS will oversee the implementation and update of the National Information Technology Plan (NITP) 2000 from time to time. The ultimate goal is I.T. diffusion where IT will be used pervasively in society.

The NITP 2000 is stucturally integrated into the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP). Development programs are being undertaken such as the:

  • Value-Added Network/Value Added Service Program
  • IT Export
  • IT Investment Promotion
  • National and Local Government Computerization Program
  • IT Literacy Program
  • IT Manpower Program
  • R&D Industry-Academe Alliance
  • Network R&D Centers and Specialists
  • Certification programs

Government I.T. Projects
The government had undertaken massive high-tech I.T. projects such as:

  • Tax Administration Computerization of BIR
  • Customs and Duties Computerization of the Bureau of Customs
  • Computer Resources Upgrade of the GSIS
  • Civil Registry Computerization of the National Statistics Office
  • Motor Vehicle Registration System of LTO
  • National Manpower Information System of TESDA
  • ARMM Election Computerization of Comelec
  • National Crime Information System of NAPOLCOM.

More I.T. projects on the way in various 130 offices in government such as the:

  • Government Information Sharing Technology Network (GISTNET) that will facilitate inter-agency, sectoral, and regional information sharing and cooperation.
  • The RPWeb that will electronically link up via the internet the entire government organization.
  • The Office of the President Web (TOPWEB) will interconnect the Office of the President, the offices of Cabinet secretaries, and eight Presidential management groups in a real-time and online mode.
  • The Philippines Information Infrastructure (PII) which will enable the Filipinos to be part of the Asia Pacific Information Infrastructure where they can participate fully in the global information society.
  • The FinLink
  • Advisory Network for the Government Executive and Legislature (ANGEL)
  • PowerNet
  • Security and Intelligence Information Gathering Network (SIGNET)
  • Agri-Net
  • National ID System
  • AFP Information System Modernization Plan

The road ahead
The country has started undertaking IT projects in the early 90's. What was stopping it from being successful at that time?

Topacio: The government recognized its stumbling blocks in implementation of I.T. projects before. The orientation on the mindset of government employees and officials towards I.T. was a major challenge for the government.

High turnover of I.T. workers in government has also been a critical factor. For these reasons, the policy of I.T. projects now is solution outsourcing, build-operate-transfer scheme, and increased I.T. use and spending. Aside from not making us too dependent to the government employees who mostly leave us because of better job opportunities, we are also giving good outsourcing projects to the private sector.

No looking back
Is SMART Philippines achievable?

Topacio: The development of I.T. in government has never been this intense and presents a major challenge. We are foreseeing the entry of I.T. giant companies investing in the Philippines. They will find it interesting to participate in I.T. projects the government is undertaking."

How far is the Philippines in achieving its goal of SMART Philippines?

Topacio: We've done around 30% of the work needed at end of 1996. With the leadership of the country's I.T. champions in government, we will achieve more this year.

National Computer Center
National Computer Center, under the leadership of Cynthia Topacio, plays a strategic and critical role in the development of public-service-oriented, revenue-generating, and operations-enhancing computer systems in government.

  • It provides assistance in the formulation of various documents necessary in the acquisition of IT resources and services, provision of technical guidelines in the conduct of bid, implementation of IT projects, IT contracts, and the like.
  • It also formulates policies, guidelines and advocacies.
  • Last year, it launched the Philippine Software Development Institute and IT2000 laboratory showcasing technologies in imaging, finger scan, point-of-sale, barcode, RDBMS, presentation solutions, CAD, multimedia, video conferencing, desktop publishing. It was designed as an avenue for advance IT training for manpower development in government.
Social Security System
The Social Security System has been considered as one of the major practitioners and users of I.T. in social security applications and in government offices. It is one of oldest social security institution in the region, being frequently visited by Asian counterparts, to learn from its experience.

For the past ten years, the agency has undertaken a lot of I.T. projects under the initiative of SSS Administrator Renato Valencia. He is one of the fearless advocates of IT in government.

Under his leadership, SSS made a lot of first in I.T such as:

  • first implementor of relational database management system in the country
  • first users of the Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) in government
  • first users of VSAT technology in government
  • first implementor of system in government.
  • first government office piloting Electronic Data Interchange. Through this, SSS will service 300,000 member employers online where they can pay their contributions and submit the necessary reports electronically.

This goverment agency will do everything in its power to provide quality service to its members. It has more projects on its way such as:

  • Upgrading of the Interactive Voice Response System nationwide which intends to provide automated response 24 hours.
  • Business Recovery Center for disaster recovery cases whether man-made or not.
  • Hospital Point of Service Terminals which intends to verify a patient's eligibility for Medicare benefits, capture the patients transaction, and facilitate the reimbursements. (under pilot)
  • SSS ID System utilizing biometrics technology
  • SSS Web System
  • Information Kiosk

Welcome to Janette Toral's Article Archives

I've been writing articles since September 1995. The purpose of this blog is to serve as a repository of these writings and hopefully be able to post each one of them here for archiving.

Through the years, I've met people who shared stories on how one article helped them close a sale, experiment on a new project, among other things. You are welcome to share your story.