AI may soon take over BPO jobs in PH, say DOST execs

By Edd K. Usman

ILOILO CITY — Artificial intelligence (AI) — and its affiliate technologies — may soon take over the jobs of Filipinos working at business process outsourcing (BPOs) companies, particularly call centers.

DOST secretary Fortunato de la Peña (center) is given a tour of an event in Iloilo

DOST secretary Fortunato de la Peña (right) is given a tour of an event in Iloilo

Public officials made separate announcements regarding the matter during a press conference in this city and a meeting held between Department of Science and Technology (DOST) secretary Fortunato de la Peña and government scholars in Jaro’s West Visayas State University (WVSU).

If the AI becomes full-blown, those working at BPOs may lose their jobs, de la Peña said in Filipino, referring to 700,000 workers employed by the BPO industry.

Even if the Philippines doesn’t do anything, new innovations from AI, data science, and space technology will eventually become the norm, the DOST chief said during the meeting at the WVSU.

“So, it is better that we do something so that we can prepare for that change. We can think of how, for example, people who may lose jobs can be re-deployed using additional new skills,” de la Peña said.

He then told the 100 scholars that knowledge in science and technology have become very important in upgrading the skills of the country’s labor force, particularly in the BPO sector.

The scholars, managed by the Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI), are either taking up masters or doctorate degrees and come from Aklan, Bacolod, Antique, Capiz, Leyte, among other areas in the Visayas.

Meanwhile, during the Regional Science and Technology Week (RSTW) in Iloilo City last August 29-31, DOST assistant secretary Emmanuel Galvez explained that experts have said that the BPO industry would soon employ only 10 to 20 percent of its current workers.

“We are not claiming to do full-fledged solutions to (the impact of) AI, we are just trying to mitigate it,” Galvez said at the sidelines of the press conference.

For his part, De la Peña emphasized the importance of researches on new technologies.

“But we all know that whether we like it or not, these new developments are going to take place, and we do not want the Philippines to just be an observer. I think we have to participate in these, develop new expertise in these areas, and compete in these new areas,” the DOST chief said.

DOST 6 regional director Rowen Gelonga said the RSTW features the Regional Invention Contest and Exhibits (RICE), bazaars for DOST-supported businesses, summit for stakeholders of Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP), signing of memorandum of agreement (MOA) on collaborative incubation plans, technology forum on food safety, and disaster resilience, visit to S&T centers, project visits to DOST-assisted enterprises, and other activities.

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