The role of the Filipino engineer in ending poverty

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By Calen Martin Legaspi

Only two or three generations ago, Japan, Germany, South Korea, and Taiwan were in shambles, faced with the seemingly impossible task of recovering from war.

Now they are economic powerhouses, because their strength in engineering allowed them to design and build products desired by rest of the world.

America’s economic dominance was actually under threat by Japan and Germany in the ’80s. What saved them was the release by the US government of the Internet, which led to an explosion of innovation in information and communication technology, which reestablished America’s economic dominance of the world.

Speaking of information and communication technology, if you add up the top six companies in Silicon Valley their revenues are close to twice the GDP of the Philippines. Each of those companies support thousands of other business, both high-tech and traditional. All of those companies combined create thousands of jobs, and rich opportunities for entrepreneurs.

If California were an independent country, it would be the fifth largest economy. And to think, these companies were formed just within this generation, mostly by young entrepreneurs with very little except talent and perseverance.

Imagine if just a few Filipino engineers started technology businesses today, that would grow into global powerhouses tomorrow. In just one generation, everything would change. The amount of wealth would double, and the distribution of this wealth would be more even, since the growth would come from entrepreneurs instead of the large conglomerates.

Even our politics would change, if Silicon Valley is an indication of things to come. Right now, the self-made entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley are banding together to lobby for such things as immigration reform, environmental policy and net neutrality. The distribution of wealth from the few to the many will also lead to a distribution of power.

It’s time for Filipino engineers to consider their potential role in Philippine society. Instead of thinking of just advancing their careers, they should consider how they can maximize their potential to support the growth of this new economy, either by being entrepreneurs themselves or by supporting Filipino entrepreneurs.

It’s also time for our government, academe and financial institutions, to increase their support of technology entrepreneurs. As all pioneers, their work will be tough, and many will fail.

We need to provide them with the knowledge and support systems to help them succeed, as well as support systems to help them pick themselves up and start over again when they fail.

The author is the CEO and co-founder of software development house Orange & Bronze

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