Borderless ICT cooperation eyed in EAGA talks

The 6th MICT assumes an international flavor as organizers timed it to the First BIMP East ASEAN Growth Area ICT Conference.

The twin events, to be held in October 23 to 24, are expected to attract more than a thousand participants, Andre Fournier of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., one of the organizers, said at the 5th TechnoKapihan at the NCCC Mall.

Fournier said it will not only be an opportunity to thresh out the concerns of the sector in Mindanao, but also a chance to express it to the sub-regional grouping's senior ministers attending the conference.

Among salient concerns raised in preliminary consultations in Mindanao, Fournier said, included broadband connectivity, a factor considered as hampering entry of business process outsourcing industries like call centers to flourish in the rest of Mindanao.

He said Mindanao stakeholders will endorse its concerns to the national government and to the BIMP-EAGA conference en route to the ASEAN Signing Ministers' Meeting in Singapore by November.

Fournier revealed that the ICT sector has been downgraded in the BIMP-EAGA from a committee to a sub-committee. He said holding the MICT side by side with the sub-regional grouping's ICT conference brings hope to revive attention to ICT.

"There's a need to raise awareness of ICT in the BIMP-EAGA ICT ministers meeting," he told MindaNews.

He said milestones had been reached in transportation and tourism, but not in ICT.

Fournier said a key issue to be raised is the possibility of a free-trade agreement as far as the ICT in the sub-region is concerned to make it "seamless".

He said, however, that it is a long-term goal in the context of an ASEAN-wide discussion.

He said businessmen are also expected to join the BIMP-EAGA senior ministers attending the conference, prompting possible international business matching.

Lou Pasawa, Trade and Industry Davao City director, said there will also be a simultaneous BIMP-EAGA Investment Forum so investors are seen coming to Davao, too.

Fournier said, however, that probably only Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia has more or less the same economic condition as Davao City in the sub-region but what is important is for players to establish linkages among themselves.

He said it is possible that as ICT cooperation progresses, Mindanao could send out its IT human resources to the rest of BIMP-EAGA. "But we are looking at them outsourcing their IT work to Davao," he said.

The BIMP-EAGA includes Brunei Darussalam (whole area), Indonesia (the provinces of North Sulawesi, East Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, Maluku, Irian Jaya, South and Central Kalimantan, Southeast and Central Sulawesi, Southeast and South Sulawesi), Malaysia (Sabah, Sarawak, and Labuan), and the Philippines (Mindanao and Palawan).

Organized annually by the Mindanao Business Council, the MICT gathers Mindanao's ICT stakeholders.

Davao City plays host to this year's MICT with organizers pitching the event as a way to make the city the ICT hub not only of Mindanao but also of the sub-regional grouping.

Spearheading preparations include the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc., the lead-host, ICT Davao, MEDCo, and other government agencies like the DTI. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)