PODCAST | Lawyer Jocelle Batapa-Sigue stresses value of rural ICT dev’t

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In the spirit of the international women’s month, Newsbytes.PH and Tech Sabado continues to highlight how Filipino women in tech have managed to rise in a male-dominated industry. For the latest episode of IN BETWEEN, lawyer Jocelle Batapa-Sigue shared how she pushed local government units (LGUs) to support investments in “cost-efficient ICT infrastructure, systems and resources” in the countryside.

Batapa-Sigue co-founded the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines (NICP) and put up the Bacolod-Negros Occidental Federation for Information and Communications Technology (BNEFIT). She also helped developed the Negros First CyberCentre in 2016, and brought the first Technology Business Incubator (TBI) for tech startups in the province.

In 1990, she took up a Bachelor of Arts degree for Political Science at the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos in Bacolod City. During her college years, she worked as a reporter and news writer for the local operations of GMA-7 and ABS-CBN.

She then proceeded to study law at the University of St. La Salle (USLS) as part of the institution’s pioneering batch of law students. She then took and passed the 1997 Bar examinations, formally becoming a lawyer on May 7, 1998.

“The biggest influence in my life is really my father since he really wanted me to be a lawyer. He and my grandparents felt that because I’m a woman I had to be strong and backed by credentials,” she shared.

Her first occupation after passing the Bar was serving as an in-house counsel for the legal department of Victorias Milling Company Inc. (VMC) — then and now the country’s biggest sugar refinery.

During her stint in VMC, she was asked by one of her law school professors to substitute for his class. After seeing her interact with students in a unique and engaging way, she was recommended by her professor to become part of the law school’s faculty.

“To this day, I teach legal research and legal ethics. Even while I was working in VMC, which is an hour and a half away from Bacolod, everyday I would drive back to Bacolod to teach,” she said.

In 2001, Batapa-Sigue entered Philippine politics by running for a city council position in Bacolod. At the time, she was unable to be part of the 12 elected councilors, so she took the opportunity to get a clearer picture of the current reality surrounding her. Instead of being frustrated on her loss, she ran again in 2004 and won as an independent candidate .

She served for a total of nine years as a city councilor where she prioritized transforming Bacolod as the go-to destination for ICT-related employment opportunities and investments. Her brainchild — the BNEFIT — was born on 2008 and eventually adopted in other cities, leading to the inception of National ICT Confederation of the Philippines (NICP).

Some of the highlights during her stint as councilor include co-authoring the creation of Information & Communications Technology (ICT) Council & Development, as well as establishing the Bacolod City Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Training Scholarships for Contact Centers, Software Development, Game Development, Animation and other IT Courses.

Throughout her entire career in government, Batapa-Sigue actively led the coordination and implementation of both national and local ICT programs and projects, believing in the potential of a developed countryside ICT.

In 2016, she was an awardee of the Outstanding Women in Nation’s Service (TOWNS) for her role in the country’s information and communications technology. In the same year, she founded the Philippine ICT Innovation Network that seeks to promote collaboration between local ICT champions in making solutions and strategies for the new digital norm.

“My dream for the Philippines is that we look at the example of other countries, where every area has a niche. The country will be more prosperous if all provinces work together,” she said.

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