Senators on Tuesday pushed for the passage of the proposed Philippine Digital Workforce Competitiveness Act. The proposed law aims to equip Filipinos with digital skills that are urgently needed during a COVID-19 pandemic.
Senator Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate committee on labor and employment and sponsor of the measure, said passage of the bill into law will help Filipinos cope with the demands of the 4IR, or the fourth industrial revolution.
This refers to the growing utilization of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, augmented reality, robotics, Internet of things, and advanced wireless technologies “in the way we live, we work, and relate with one another.”
Villanueva said the bill aims to help those who lost their jobs during the pandemic find new opportunities in digital technology by upgrading their computer skills to give them added labor value.
Through the proposed law, Villanueva said the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) would be able to fulfill its target of helping 500,000 unemployed Filipinos in provinces to be globally-competitive digital workers for the year 2022.
“We need to pass this measure so that we can move beyond existing models of innovation, entrepreneurship, and digital growth. We need a legal framework to promote and strengthen digital careers, to institutionalize employment standards for digital career workers, and to enhance competitiveness through access to necessary trainings, skills development, and scholarship programs,” Villanueva said during his sponsorship speech.
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, principal author of the bill, said passage of the bill into law is timely, “not only because it responds to the social distancing demands and the imperatives for alternative forms of employment due to the pandemic, but also for the vision it adopts and seeks to realize about the country’s future development and long-term prosperity.”
“That is, a future where every Filipino citizen is equipped with the skills and competencies needed to effectively navigate a rapidly digitalizing world,” Angara said during his co-sponsorship speech.
Angara said that while some Filipinos whose success in the digital world are commendable and inspirational, not everybody is as well-versed and literate with technology as they are.
“And in a rapidly digitalizing world, lacking the right digital skills and competencies can spell a lifetime’s worth of missed opportunities and potential unrealized. Indeed, not being tech savvy is to be left behind,” Angara pointed out.
The senator said it is crucial to bridge the widening digital skills divide if the Philippines truly wants to reap the benefits from the digital world. He said digital technology is causing such rapid transformations in the world of work that jobs are being created for which people do not eve have the skills yet.
“Where the call for more support for training, reskilling and up-skilling in digital competencies is not entirely new, the COVID-19 pandemic has only made it self-evident that having a competitive digital workforce helps build a safer workplace, and ultimately, a more resilient economy,” Angara said.
“There is a huge economic opportunity that we as a country can capitalize on, given that the Philippines has already been identified as a haven for online freelancers,” he stressed.