IT leaders, government eyeing upgrade of curriculum to prepare for AI

The Philippine Software Industry Association (PSIA) and the government are eyeing to update the higher institutions’ academic curriculum on software and information technology (IT) education so the country’s to prepare the work force for the scaling up of the industry to artificial intelligence (AI) and automation.

At the fifth Philippine Software Industry Conference held recently, board members of PSIA and Department of Information and Communication Technology underscored the significance of mainstreaming IT and software skills in confronting the challenges of technology.

“With things going digital, it’s far easier now to put a layer of AI and automation in services. If there’s anything we learned from past industrial revolutions, these changes will take away jobs, but they’ll also create new opportunities and new jobs with it,” PSIA President Jonathan de Luzuriaga said at a news briefing.

Similar to the prediction of its umbrella organization, the Information Technology Business Process Association of the Philippines, simple and low-level services are most vulnerable to displacement by new capabilities in the IT industry.

The industry has already seen a gradual decline of simple voice services to the over-all share of IT-business process management (BPM) services, and this will likely continue with technology scaling up.

But de Luzuriaga said that with the IT and software industry occupying the high-end of the spectrum in terms of complexity and skill set, the threat of displacement is not pressing.

Still, meeting the challenge of equipping new graduates with the necessary skill set is there as the IT and software occupy just a portion of the whole IT-BPM pie.

Out of IT-BPM sector’s $25-billion export revenues in 2016, the IT and software sub-sector’s share is at $ 2.9 billion.

Of the 1.14 million employees in IT-BPM, only 123,000 are in the highly coveted sub-sector.

De Luzuriaga predicted that employment in his sector can balloon to up to 1 million by 2022, and export revenues to reach $5 billion—but if more graduates are knowledgeable in the basics of AI.

Information and Communication Technology Undersecretary Monchito B. Ibrahim said they are working with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to have a specialization focusing on the fundamentals of AI to be approved.

“The challenge is allowing schools to be more adaptable to changes in the real world. We’ve already worked a specialization of business analytics, service management, and we’re trying to work with the industry now to help us develop a field of specialization on fundamentals of AI,” Ibrahim added.

The government official said specialization may take some time before it gets approved by CHED, but pressed that the teaching of the prospective curricula should also be prepared.

“Even if [AI curriculum] is approved, we’re asking who will teach them? They’re now seeking help from the industry to help them develop a faculty,” Ibrahim added.

“Instead of being scared of the advent of AI and robotics that they may replace workers in the industry, we should see it as an opportunity to move the workers up the value chain to do more complex work. Give the robots the low-level work,” said Winston Cruz, vice president of PSIA and marketing director of Accenture Delivery Centers in the Philippines.


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