My Writing Portfolio

PUBLISHED WORKS 

MANILA BULLETIN

BALIKBAYAN MAGAZINE

CLICKTHECITY.COM

HIPP (Happy Intelligent Progressive Parenting)

MAVEN MAGAZINE

  • Maven Magazine November-December 2011: “The Art of Reinvention”
  • Maven Magazine

METRO MAGAZINE

SME MAGAZINE

  • SME Magazine December 2010: The Prime Player

STAR STUDIO MAGAZINE

  • Star Studio Magazine December 2010

WEDDING ESSENTIALS MAGAZINE

  • WE Discovery 2010: Clear Channels
  • WE 2010: Mich Dulce
  • WE 2010: Sweet Inspiration

From fantasy currency to financial disruptor

Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin may have gotten a shady reputation for being the underground economy’s currency of choice, but as more people are exposed to the blockchain technology, the conversation is changing

To the uninitiated, a conversation about Bitcoin—the cryptocurrency created by one mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009 that’s causing waves of disruption in the world of finance—can be somewhat of a mind trip.

For one, it’s quite difficult to wrap your head around the concept of paying—or being paid—with currency that, technically, physically doesn’t exist. Instead, every bitcoin transaction is represented by a random string of letters and numbers. These transactions are then collected into a “block” that is then verified by “miners”, before being finally written into a public ledger called the “blockchain”.

It reads like something straight out of an Asimov novel, but if there is anything such Bitcoin-related scandals like the now-defunct black market Silk Road (which used bitcoin as its mode of payment) and the bitcoin trade exchange platform Mt Gox prove, it’s that the bitcoin’s value is every bit as real—and present—as the dollar, peso, and every other currency in the world.

Unlike government-issued currencies, however, the bitcoin is an idea born out of a libertarian ideology. No central authority or government exists to regulate it.

“One aspect of bitcoin is that it is decentralized. It’s just like the Internet—there is not one server, one government that can shut the Internet down. It works like a peer-to-peer file sharing application, but instead of transferring files, its underlying algorithm, the blockchain, facilitates and verifies the transfer of value between two peers,” states Jay Villarante, the CEO of Paylance, an app that allows overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to send money to the Philippines using bitcoins.

DIGITAL CURRENCY AND THE PHILIPPINE SETTING

Much of the appeal of bitcoin is that it does away with the middleman. The very fact that it is traded peer-to-peer makes it the digital version of a cash exchange where you send or receive your money directly, bypassing payment processors.

For developed nations where much of the market are banked and using credit cards, dabbling into the bitcoin trade could be nothing more than a novelty. It is in emerging markets like the ASEAN, however, that bitcoins can truly deal a huge impact.

For Ron Hose, the CEO of Coins.ph, a Philippine financial tech startup that grants the unbanked access to financial services like overseas remittance, bills payment, and bank transfer, it’s in a country like the Philippines—where only two out of 10 households have access to savings accounts, much less credit cards—that bitcoin can really leapfrog.

“The statistic that always sticks in my mind for the Philippines is that more Filipinos have Facebook accounts than bank accounts. This is very telling,” Hose says. “It tells you that the market is reachable, and that the problem is addressable—you can provide services to people who are unbanked. It’s just that traditional banks and financial institutions haven’t figured out yet how to do it while keeping costs to a minimum.”

Bitcoin’s technology, the blockchain, is what gives bitcoin much of its appeal as a digital currency.

“In the digital world where any information is very easy to replicate, the blockchain solved the problem of verifying transactions in a decentralized ecosystem or network. It’s very complex in the back end, but basically it ensures that transactions are transparent and unchangeable—meaning, when I give you a bitcoin, I can no longer spend or give the same bitcoin anymore. The algorithm ensures that there is no ‘double spending’,” Villarante explains, adding that such complex process takes place in a matter of 10 minutes.

As transactions are dealt directly from one person to another—unlike traditional financial transactions where money is first passed on to payment processors before reaching the recipient—costs are significantly reduced. It’s exactly why blockchain-powered financial platforms like Coins.ph and Paylance have seen double-digit growth in the last year.

“We see ourselves as a microfinance institution of sorts,” clarifies Hose. “We’re not providing the financial services ourselves, nor are we trying to replace existing banks and remittance companies,” he says, “but we help connect the customers with financial institutions offering these services. All we’re doing is giving a platform for these two parties—the financial institution and the customer—to transact at minimal cost.”

Quite like how the Internet helps facilitate the transfer of information via the HTTP protocol, funds are transferred from sender to recipient using the blockchain protocol. But because for some consumers the concept of bitcoin trading can be quite hard to grasp, a number of financial tech startups powered by the blockchain implement go-to-market strategies that do away with even the mention of bitcoin.

“Right now, how we do it is we act as an ‘abstraction layer’ between the consumer and bitcoin, which means the buyer and seller do not really need to know what bitcoin is because the money that goes from point A to B is already converted to the currency of the recipient,” Villarante explains, adding that it’s similar to how international bank transfers are being done, except that transactions over the blockchain are direct and take away the exorbitant costs associated with using the SWIFT network.

BEYOND DIGITAL CURRENCY

Bitcoin may still be at its nascent stage, but globally, there has been a huge spike in investment money pouring into the technology. Villarante reports that in 2014 alone, bitcoin had $349 million worth of investments. The figure for 2015 currently stands at $916 million. “That’s almost a billion dollars—a huge jump from 2014. The growth is tremendous, opportunities are huge, and we’re probably just looking at the pre-bubble days of bitcoin,” he avers.

Hose, who was recently invited to speak at the Asian Bankers Summit about financial tech disruption, adds that even U.S. companies like NASDAQ are experimenting with blockchain technology. In the Philippine setting, he shares that the country is one of the best environments for innovation in financial technology.

“I’m seeing people exerting a lot of effort—we have a forward-thinking BSP that is really motivated about financial inclusion; there are tech companies like Lenddo that are building new solutions; Globe and Smart are both doing things with GCash and Smart Money; and the big banks are experimenting. I see it almost every day—ADB, USAID, microfinance institutions—all these great minds focused on digital currency,” Hose shares.

“What’s good about bitcoin,” Villarante adds, “is that, first, the ledger is public, so there’s transparency when it comes to all the transactions in the bitcoin economy. Second, it has intrinsic fraud-prevention features. Unlike credit cards where you have to give out your information, you don’t have to do so in bitcoin.”

But more than bitcoin’s potential as a digital currency, Villarante avers that the revolutionary aspect about bitcoin really lies in its underlying technology, the blockchain. Because the blockchain ensures that a permanent, public record of every single Bitcoin transaction is created, its potential as a decentralized way of conducting business and organizing data across industries is huge.

It can even topple government institutions, says Villarante, only half-jesting. “Think of bitcoin as a ‘domain name’ that you can add value to. When you buy a domain, it doesn’t offer any initial value, but if you use it and turn it into a site that generates a lot of traffic, there’s value added that you can trade in exchange for something. Similarly, you can use bitcoin to represent a geo-location of a piece of land or a company stock that you can directly sell or trade with another person in 10 minutes. And you do away without all the paperwork, all the bureaucracy. It’s fascinating, really, because if this grows, the technology has the potential to disrupt, even replace, all government institutions—except the military,” he says.

“Digital currency,” Villarante simply states, “is just the first of many potential applications of bitcoin’s technology.”
Manila Bulletin, 22 June 2015

Banking on the unbanked

FICO brings its extensive experience in credit scoring across the globe to the Philippines, enabling credit access where it is needed most

Giving the unbanked population access to credit is something Burton Crapps takes seriously.

Having grown up in South Georgia in the United States, the current Philippine country manager of FICO knows firsthand how challenging it is for a typical household, living in a largely cash-based community, to save money. “My family lived in a very poor farming area; we didn’t have a home—we lived in an abandoned schoolhouse until I was 17. We were itinerant farmers and we got paid in cash. And because we were six kids in the family, there was no way to save enough money to buy a house,” Crapps relates.

It wasn’t until the 1970s, when the United States government mandated and funded an inclusion program that provided lending fairly to the lower income population, that Crapps’ father was able to qualify for a house loan. “It took my dad 40 years to pay for the house, but had it not been for that lending mandate and inclusion program, we would never have owned one. Because we could never have saved enough money,” he says.

It’s the same predicament an emerging market like the Philippines is facing today. While the country’s economy has been on a strong growth trajectory the last three years, the benefits haven’t exactly trickled down to the grassroots level—or, at the very least, felt. “The problem in any emerging market is that it’s difficult [for people] to save enough money, so how do you expand your middle class and grow that lower class economy? There is a need to give everybody equal and fair access to credit,” avers Crapps, adding that this has been one of FICO’s two main areas of focus for its Philippine business. Apart from implementing fraud detection and prevention systems for the banking industry, FICO works in the credit-worthiness and credit scoring business.

A centralized credit bureau

Banks, credit card issuers, auto lenders and other businesses use credit scores to determine whether they would lend to a customer. Generally, a higher score means better terms on loans. While banks in the Philippines have their own credit systems, a centralized credit system yet exists. But with the Philippine government targeting to roll out a national credit bureau by yearend 2014, the move—aimed to bring greater financial inclusion, and consequently increase the country’s global competitiveness—will have a pretty significant effect on the growth of lending in the Philippines.

According to Crapps, “The presence of a centralized credit bureau will enable lenders to have access to data that will let them make better decisions about how to give credit to everyone—not only to their current customers, but most especially to that larger part of the population who would never be recognized by a credit bureau because they don’t have credit. Your farmers, fishermen, OFWs—how do you lend to them fairly and equally?”

The challenge, he adds, would be how the government-owned Credit Information Corp. (CIC), local banks and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) would manage and moderate such a system to ensure everybody has fair access to credit and is rated on a common rating system.

It is in this space that FICO’s methodologies and analytics play a significant role. “Over the last 30 years, we have focused on bringing methodologies to the credit bureau level, as well as the central bank level and down to the lending level, which will stratify or normalize these credit scores. With all the data expected to come in once the CIC is rolled out, FICO’s role is to take that data and analytically qualify it so that everybody, regardless of their standing in life, has an equal rating,” Crapps explains.

Enabling inclusive growth

Having successfully implemented their FICO credit scoring system in over 50 countries—cash-oriented societies like Mexico, Eastern Europe and Russia, among them—and working with more than 20 central banks on their financial inclusion programs, Crapps points to three things critical in the next 12 to 24 months to the Philippines.

“One is at the regulatory or compliant level,” he puts in. “Whether at the CIC or BSP, there will be resistance in looking at these things. Because there already exists a system there that works quite well, expanding that can be a challenge. The second challenge, at a higher level, is convincing the banks to take the risk to move into that. In a country like the Philippines where most banks are family- or individually-owned, they tend to have policies around credit and opening their minds to look at new markets and new expansion is a challenge—not a problem, but a challenge,” Crapps says.

The bigger challenge in a market like the Philippines, however, is actually in convincing and educating the consumer on why, first of all, they would want credit or need it. “The first two things can be managed because the banks would want to make money and the regulators would want inclusive growth in the country. The more pressing problem is really, how do you communicate such an idea to someone who farms or fishes for a living, who doesn’t really ever think about credit, or trust credit before? That’s something that needs to be addressed—how you educate the consumer and the market,” Crapps says.

With the ASEAN moving toward integration by 2015, FICO’s country manager is optimistic about the Philippines’ prospects in the finance industry. Crapps shares that, in terms of the credit and finance space, current trends in the ASEAN are highly influenced by the Philippines. “People are talking about what’s happening here. Because a lot of the growth areas in the region are beginning or have already been saturated, more financial institutions in the region are looking at the Philippines as a place to invest. We have a strong BPO base, a strong OFW base, and with the middle class expanding, people are spending more money. Four years ago, when I joined FICO to build the Philippine market, everyone was saying, ‘Philippines…we’ll never do anything there.’ But now we’re the fastest growing market in FICO globally,” he ends.
Read more at http://www.mb.com.ph/banking-on-the-unbanked/#j2efDyftO05peHAk.99

On the road to resilience

The Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility underscores the importance of mitigating risks, rebuilding from devastation, forming partnerships, and ensuring good governance to sustain economic gains among communities across the region

‘Of all the qualities required  to surviving and prospering in today’s unpredictable and turbulent world, what can be more important than resilience? The capacity to withstand adversity, the capacity to rise from adversity, the capacity to adapt to adverse conditions, and the capacity to transform and thrive even when things are not going well—what could be more important than this?”

This was the stirring statement Conference Chairman Dato Paduka Timothy Ong posed to the over 500 participants from 30 countries who gathered at the recent Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility (AFCSR). This year’s theme, “Building resilient communities: How business, government and social enterprises can work together,” has never been more relevant, especially in a region that’s not only seen remarkable economic growth but quite the number of environmental disasters whose impact seem to become more alarming every year.

“When we talk about leading in Asia, we need to be mindful that some of the communities that we serve are among the most vulnerable in the world,” avers Ong. According to him, events like the AFCSR allow current and emerging leaders to find ways on how to better collaborate to ensure devastating events, both natural and man-made, will not erase the progress that both private and public sectors have achieved.

A COUNTRY OF RESILIENCE

Starting off the conversation on resilience, AFCSR participants were fortunate to hear the words of keynote speaker, H.E. Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta, the former president of Timor-Leste, as he talked of his country’s long struggle for independence. Instrumental in achieving a just and peaceful solution to the conflict of Timor-Leste, Dr. Ramos-Horta was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for his role as peacemaker.

Fourteen years ago, Dr. Ramos-Horta shares, “Timor-Leste literally started from the ashes of war. Communities were frowned upon, there was a lack of rule of law, no functioning force, a discredited police force, no private sector, no electricity in rural areas, and [there were] serious power shortages in the capitol building…buildings in the country were either completely or partially destroyed.” To illustrate the extent of destruction, Dr. Ramos-Horta says that 95 percent of schools were destroyed in 1999.

Much has been achieved since, he points out. Since its reconciliation with its “largest and mighty neighbor, the Republic of Indonesia,” Timor-Leste has been a model of community building for the 21st century.

“We’ve learned that in order to be developed, a community ought to live in peace, feel safe, and enjoy political stability,” Dr. Ramos-Horta says, emphasizing that long-lasting peace, stability and security can only be attained through dialogue, political inclusiveness, social innovation, fostering partnerships, and establishing coalitions between government, civil society, communities, and the domestic and international private sectors.

He also highlights the role micro and social businesses play in achieving sustainable and equitable development. “Without inclusive economic growth, social peace will always be in jeopardy. Social innovation is needed to ensure long-lasting sustainable peace in our young nation. This can be achieved through social and micro-businesses working side by side with complementing public investments,” he says.

WHY GOOD GOVERNANCE MATTERS

In her plenary address on building national resilience, Senator Grace Poe asserts that the Filipino’s eternal optimism “that things would eventually sort out in the end” perhaps best explains why it seemingly isn’t inherent to the Filipino to plan ahead for emergencies and disasters. “This is where government intervention is all the more important,” Senator Poe points out, “It is left to the government to pull forth. Good governance is an absolute prerequisite towards the attainment of national resilience.”

Speaking in front of an audience composed of a majority of corporate executives involved in their organization’s CSR, Senator Poe acknowledges the vital role good management plays toward making businesses run efficiently and effectively. “If a corporation is managed well, an organization reaps financial profits. [Correspondingly, in the context of] government, good governance can actually help save lives,” she avers, citing Visayan LGU San Francisco in Camotes Island as a prime example of this.

At the height of Typhoon Yolanda, the disaster resiliency program of San Francisco gained national attention as it was the only town in the Visayas to have been hit by Typhoon Yolanda and suffered zero casualties. While the number of victims grew in number in the provinces of Leyte and Samar, San Francisco had already fully recovered in a matter of weeks. Senator Poe shares that they were able to achieve this using a simple yet effective disaster resiliency program. “They call this the Purok System—unlike in most LGUs where the local government is organized only up to the barangay level, in San Francisco, their LGU is organized up to the ‘purok’ level,” she shares.

Each barangay in San Francisco, on average, is comprised of seven to 10 puroks, with each comprising its own leader and complement of workers and volunteers. When Typhoon Yolanda hit in 2013, the purok leaders were fully prepared and quick to mobilize and able to evacuate the residents to safer ground just in time.

“The beauty of this system is that in this purok, majority are blood relatives, so it became easier to evacuate and account for everybody in times of disasters,” she says, adding that, “the element of trust is very important in disaster management programs. This is why the purok system was so effective for San Francisco, and also the reason why in some places they were unable to fully evacuate. There was just not enough trust and experience.”

Senator Poe lauded ex-Mayor Alfredo Arquillano, Jr. for being the main catalyst of such system. “Today, San Francisco has bounced back and fully recovered. Open na ang mga negosyo, bukas na ang mga beach resorts, at naayos na ang mga bahay. It’s [because of] the vision and foresight of this man,” she says.

Indeed, the LGU demonstrated that good governance can lead not only to economic growth, efficient public service, zero graft and corruption; it can also, as evident in San Francisco, truly save lives. “It can make all the difference in times of emergencies and calamities,” says the Senator. “The question now is, how do we replicate these best practices in San Francisco to other parts of the country? How do we institutionalize good governance to make the Philippines more resilient?”

REBUILDING FROM DEVASTATION

Senator Poe avers that there would be no national resiliency without food security. “Provide proper nutrition to the segment of the population who cannot afford to feed themselves. No nation is resilient who cannot feed their people properly. Food security must be a component of a national resiliency program,” she says.

It also pays to learn a thing or two from other countries that experienced widespread devastation and how they were able to bounce back from it. Speaking for her country, Myanmar, Daw Lahpai Seng Raw concurs with Senator Poe on the key role food security plays. The founder of the Metta Development Foundation says, “We have to come to terms with how crucial the agricultural potential of the land is, and the strength of arms of the people and their will to survive.” When Myanmar suffered a debilitating loss due to Cyclone Nargis in 2008, Seng Raw says the experience drove the villages to grow more mangrove forests, and maintain and cultivate windbreaker trees.

Indonesia’s Anton Soedjarwo, founder and director of Yayasan Dian Desa (Light of the Village Foundation), says that, in the end, no single organization/sector can do everything. “Rebuilding infrastructure is an issue on one hand, while economic and livelihood recovery is another. Government, NGOs and common donor organizations may not have all the necessary experiences and capacity needed, and it is in this arena where business and social enterprises can work together and make innovative and sustainable intervention. You have to take into account the strength of the business and private sector, and the need for a dedicated networking platform where all these ‘actors’ can communicate and help each other,” he ends.
Published 8 September 2014, Manila Bulletin

Off the ‘eaten’ path

A quaint family-run restaurant in Santa Cruz, Laguna is proving that ‘location, location, location’ need not be everyone’s mantra

While there is much to be celebrated about the surfeit of food options now available in Metro Manila—where spicy falafels and butter-soft Japanese mochis are now as commonplace as the local tapsilog and sisig—for the fledgling restaurateur, entering a dining scene whose market is likewise growing in sophistication can be quite daunting.

With so many choices now available to the Manila consumer—and in every cuisine, price range, and location imaginable—how does one capture a market? How does one stand out?

For restaurant consultancy business MonDay Chefs, whose quaint little bistro, Ted’s, is located some 80 kilometers away from city center, the answer comes in the form of a question: “Why bother?”

While MonDay’s latest venture definitely departs from the oft-reliable business adage of “location, location, location”, which the founders maintain remains crucial in this day and age—their Spanish tapas bar Tapeo, after all, is located right smack in bustling Bonifacio Global City—Chef Theodore Salonga asserts that, sometimes, “with a little luck, your market will come to you.”

LEVERAGING ON THE FAMILIAR

A family-owned and operated restaurant, Ted’s was born out of the Salonga family’s love for food. Situated along the popular Via del Sol route in Santa Cruz, Laguna, the restaurant features comfort food the Salonga siblings grew up with.

“It really started with family,” Salonga shares. “When my parents decided to put up a restaurant, it was a relatively easy process for us because these were the food we grew up with, food we loved. We didn’t do much research because everything in the menu consists of food we were familiar with—the concept was already there,” he says.

With its eclectic interiors and “backyard country” ambience, everything about Ted’s bespeaks nonchalance—from the wooden knickknacks and vintage paraphernalia that Salonga shares came straight out of his family’s baul [chest], to the self-deprecating hand-painted sign that says, “If our food, drinks and service aren’t up to your standards, please lower your standards.”

The few challenges that presented itself during the restaurant’s early days—“Standardization of the recipes, and we really had to train the staff to perform at the same level of standards we used in Manila,” supplies MonDay Chefs co-founder Mon Urbano—were addressed accordingly.

Competition, which came in quite aggressively in the first few months, eventually withered down to the occasional copycat. “When we opened Ted’s in December 2012, there were nearby restaurants who would pirate members of our staff. There were some who’d actually call and ask our cooks what ingredients were used for our buffalo wings, for example, and some instances where everytime we’d come up with new items, similar items would crop up in our competitors’ menus as well,” Urbano recounts.

To keep their secret recipes, well, “secret”, the chefs mix the sauces themselves in MonDay’s test kitchen in Manila, such that Ted’s staff would only have to assemble and cook their bestsellers—which comprise mostly burgers, USDA steaks, grilled pizzas, and their famous buffalo wings—in Laguna.

ROOM FOR THE UNEXPECTED

Initially opened to cater to local residents of Santa Cruz, the typical weekend at Ted’s eventually saw diners coming in from as far north as Quezon City to partake of the restaurant’s fare.

“When we started, a lot of people in Santa Cruz were naturally curious to try our food, but later on, we’ve had a lot of expats come in, especially those working in towns as nearby as Los Baños and as far as San Pablo. And we’ve had people from Manila come in—we’ve sort of become a destination in Santa Cruz,” Salonga humbly shares, “we get a lot of the tourists going to Liliw and Pagsanjan because we’re right along the Via del Sol route.”

More than their customer turnout, however, what really surprised the chef was when his sister, Angela, left her corporate career in Singapore to work in the kitchen. A former financial analyst, Salonga’s sister had only planned to stay in Laguna for a holiday, but upon spending time at the kitchen, she eventually decided it was time for a career switch.

“My sister had no background whatsoever in patisserie, but now she comes up with all of Ted’s desserts. Her only foundation is my mom’s cooking, but she learned everything fast—she experiments a lot, would bake until dawn, and even learned restaurant management. She manages Ted’s now,” shares the proud brother.

Now approaching its second year of operations, things are looking pretty good for the family-run outfit. With business doing well, the chefs have been approached by investors for potential franchising opportunities. “We’re still studying it—we’re not too keen on franchising, but more on a partnership, to ensure that standards and qualities are maintained,” Urbano shares.

The restaurant, located in front of the Salonga family compound, is expanding in area as well. “We just opened three new function rooms at Ted’s—nag-extend kami sa likod to cater to private functions. We’ve had a lot of reservations for large groups recently, which affected the operations of the main restaurant, so we thought having function rooms would keep everyone happy,” shares Urbano.

Ted’s is located along the National Highway, Santa Cruz, Laguna. For reservations, call (49) 501-6858 or visit their facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/teds.santacruzlaguna.

Published 18 August 2014, Manila Bulletin

Game, set, match

How analytics can help businesses reach their target market

‘It’s not really rocket science,” avers Mario Domingo of his company’s technology.

The head of Customer Operations of DANATEQ, the organization behind LINK, a real-time self-learning cognitive analytics platform, says that the logic behind their technology has been in existence for many years. “We’ve just brought it down to a commercial level to help businesses, customers—both SMEs and large corporations—benefit from that technology,” he simply states.

LINK, which evaluates and studies consumer algorithms to enable enterprises to implement the most effective business models to reach their target markets, was born out of the four original co-founders’ vision to create a commercial software that “will learn as robots do.”

“The fundamental strength of our software is this,” Domingo explains, “Imagine a robot approaching a wall head on. To avoid crashing against it, the robot can’t store that data (that he is about to hit a wall) and analyze it later to produce the desired result. He needs to learn how to get around it now, and how to back up and find another route.”

IT’S A MATTER OF MEMORY

As daunting as LINK’s cognitive analytics platform may initially sound, it is really quite simple.

“Remember the term ‘as of’? Fundamentally,” Domingo says, “we believe that the way we do things today—the traditional data management involving storage and then analytics to gather insights—is no longer good enough to serve today’s companies. What these enterprises need are real-time insights out of live, real-time data.”

What LINK does is understand consumer behavior by analyzing how people respond to products and services offered by companies, giving the latter the advantage of coming up with the most effective strategies in reaching out to their audience. For an advertising business, this implies more targeted TV commercials. Four different people could be watching the same TV show at one time, but the ads popping up on all four screens would be different and catered to the viewer’s profile, or, as Domingo puts it, their propensities. To cut the story short, DANATEQ’s technology is “offer matching based on real time profiling at the individual level,” he states.

Whereas traditional analytics platforms make use of storage to mine insights from their existing data pools, LINK’s processing is done mainly in memory. And in this age of fast-evolving technology, this is still considered “young”.

Adoption, for one, can be quite the challenge. “There’s a need to educate the market that our technology is not far-fetched—this isn’t Star Trek or Star Wars. It is already happening now. We just have to change the original thinking that you need to store data first, and only then can you query to get insights,” Domingo says. “What we do is take the data, and process it in memory to generate results now,” he adds.

COGNITIVE ENTERPRISE

A Singapore-organized company, DANATEQ was formed by four co-founders coming from backgrounds as diverse as telecoms, control systems, robotics, and defense. They banded because of the vision to enable enterprises to implement continuously improving automated business processes through cognitive loops.

“Our first vertical is the telecommunications industry where we enable leading operators to create 360-degree customer views as the first step to a cognitive enterprise,” Domingo informs. If, of late, you’ve been wondering how the SMS alerts you’ve been getting from your mobile provider seem accurately tailored to your tastes and preferences, then you’ve just had a first-hand experience of what cognitive analytics can do. “It’s your telco’s desire to give you what is relevant to you, and not force you to avail of a generic plan or promo. We help do that by analyzing your behavioral patterns, learning the propensities, and then using these to anticipate your needs. Instead of being very company- or product-centric, we get to you at the individual level,” he says.

For a company founded only four years ago, DANATEQ has experienced massive growth. “We double our business every year, and we continue to grow. And due to serendipity, the first place we actually rolled out our technology is in the Philippines, in the telco industry,” Domingo informs. He attributes this to Philippine telcos’ strong drive to innovate. “Philippine telcos are very cutting edge—they’ve always been known in the telco space as innovators and game-changers. They lead the innovation curve globally,” he states.

While a chunk of DANATEQ’s business deals in telecommunications, another growth area they’ve identified is social media analytics. “There have been discussions around different places, but social media analytics is most promising,” Domingo says, adding that in social media analytics, DANATEQ uses natural language processing to search for keywords in social networks and blogs. “It’s a very powerful tool to see what is the general sentiment about a brand or product. We’re using social media sentiment as a predictor of behavior and as a propensity input towards what the likely behavior of a customer is. Social media analytics is the new word of mouth,” Domingo says, “and it’s high time enterprises take advantage of it.”

Published August 4, 2014, Manila Bulletin

Building connections that matter

Cisco commits to further bridging the IT skills gap in the Philippines by strengthening ties between the academe and its Cisco Networking Academy

‘We are now entering the ‘Internet of Everything’,” declares Louie Castañeda, country manager of Cisco in the Philippines.

One of the biggest trends impacting today’s businesses, Castañeda describes the Internet of Everything as a phenomenon that connects people, data, processes, and things to create products/services of even greater value.

It’s a phenomenon that can be applied to a wide range of industries, apparently. In the arena of sports, for one, wearables that include the likes of the Nike Fuel Band, FitBit and Jawbone comprise the early stages of inception. “Right now, [utilizing] these devices entail that you input information for it to track your steps, sleep patterns, etc. But when wearables eventually evolve into the Internet of Everything, you’ll see these accessories now taking your vital signs all on their own,” explains Castañeda.

In the digital realm, the Internet of Everything is something companies like Cisco find “exciting”. According to Castañeda, the phenomenon actually came about when it was discovered in a recent study by the IDC that despite everything seemingly connected to the Internet, a whopping 99 percent of things actually remain unconnected. “Worldwide, only one percent of things are connected. In the estimate they made, there exists about $14 trillion dollars’ worth of potential revenue opportunity out there for any company who wants to get into the Internet of Everything,” Castañeda shares, adding that as more infrastructure will be needed to connect everything, Cisco, which is steadily evolving from a purely hardware business to a total IT solutions company, is “well poised to offer solutions to the market that enables that.”

An existing skills gap

An IDC study commissioned by Cisco in 2012 explores the networking gap in Asia Pacific. According to Castañeda, there currently exists a gap of roughly around 300,000 networking professionals in Asia Pacific. This figure, he says, is projected to go up to approximately 460,000 by 2016.

“There is a big opportunity out there for networking professionals,” Castañeda says, adding that in the Philippine context, with the looming 2015 deadline for Asean integration, “one of the biggest requirements we can fill would be providing technology skilled persons. And the good thing about the Philippines is that we have three areas that allow us to be very competitive—we have human capital, a good English speaking workforce as shown by the BPO boom, and there is a big consumer demand among Filipinos for technology. These three areas will further drive our economic growth.”

To further leverage on these growth drivers, Cisco, by way of its Cisco Networking Academy (CNA), aims to bridge the networking gap through various ICT skills development initiatives. The program itself isn’t new, as the CNA has been deployed in the Philippines since 1998. “It’s one way Cisco aims to help the Philippines through social innovation. We help communities develop a skilled workforce,” Castañeda shares, adding that, in essence, the academy aims to provide network skills training to students in about 150 academies and schools nationwide that offer the CNA program.

“We used to have only three modules—the CCNA or Cisco Certified Networking Administrator program; CCNA Security; and IT Essentials, which is currently our most popular module—but now we’re also developing a module for the Internet of Everything,” Castañeda informs, adding that outside of the United States, the Philippines currently has the most number of partner academies, graduates and enrollees. “A number of schools, mostly those offering technical courses, currently offer the CNA program. Usually, it’s either an elective or part of the actual curriculum. It’s been a very successful program so far in the Philippines. Currently, we have roughly around 300,000 graduates already,” informs Castañeda.

According to Castañeda, the CNA program has been quite successful with the private sector, but one thing he feels he needs to do moving forward is to partner with the government, enlisting the latter to adopt their technology skills development program for public schools and state universities. “It would be better not only for Cisco but the country as a whole. You need a tech savvy workforce all the more today, and this type of training will allow that. We actually started some discussions with TESDA, DepEd…we tried a program before wherein we identified about 40 high schools to adopt our program, and we trained a number of instructors and professors, but it didn’t really fly. The challenge for programs like this is that it should be sustainable and have government support. It entails constant training and support, which we really need to work on,” avers Castañeda.

Apart from bridging the gap in terms of networking professionals, Castañeda stresses the need to increase the country’s network readiness. “There’s a World Bank study that says a 10 percent increase in the broadband speed of a country translates to one to 1.5 percent growth in GDP. And that’s one of the biggest challenges in the Philippines—how do we improve the infrastructure? Sadly, in terms of network readiness, the Philippines has one of the lowest indices in the Asia Pacific. And with the coming AEC 2015, that’s going to be an even more urgent issue that we need to address. When you open up the market for the ASEAN, all other countries will be offering better infrastructure and facilities. But the potential is there, the conditions are there—we just have to address some basic infrastructure and policy challenges,” Castañeda says.

Published July 20, 2014 in the Business Agenda section of the Manila Bulletin