PHL sustains drive to become AI hub with proposed NCAIR


Building the National Center for Artificial Intelligence Research (NCAIR) will take the Philippines one step closer to realizing billions worth of economic gains and become a hub for artificial intelligence (AI), according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Competitiveness and Innovation Group (CIG).

In a webinar on Wednesday, DTI-CIG Undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba said the government is already in talks with at least seven firms keen on investing to build the proposed NCAIR. She expects the center to start generating earnings after two to three years of operation.

NCAIR, Aldaba said, is designed to be a private sector-driven institution that will help micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in their digital transformation. It will also help reskill and upskill workers in light of the emergency of various AI technologies.

“This is really going to be a catalyst in terms of making the Philippines a future AI hub and of course we need to build the physical and soft infrastructure, and in the soft infrastructure, trust would be a part of that, [so] human resource development, capacity development, as well as reskilling and upskilling our people,” Aldaba said.

“It’s going to be a whole of society approach, a whole of government approach with strong collaboration between government and academe, industry and other stakeholders. We really need to work together in order for us to realize all of the potential,” she added.

Aldaba said that based on a study released by Kearney and EDBI, the Philippines has the potential to unlock $92 billion or 12 percent of GDP by harnessing the power of AI.

This could remain a possibility if institutions like NCAIR are not put in place. In a presentation, Erika Legara of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) said the NCAIR will employ scientists and research engineers full-time to undertake various projects.

The NCAIR will also house the National Data Center and the National Research Cloud given that the center is envisioned to be equipped with the necessary computing facilities to collect and manage data and drive research, including the advancement of algorithmic innovations.

“The creation of this is central to the implementation of the AI Roadmap as it will serve as the Nexus to AI competitiveness in the country. It is expected to be central to world-class R&D [research and development] activities and coordinators and drivers of AI integrators to be deployed in regional hubs identified by the DOST [Department of Science and Technology],” Legara said in a presentation.

Earlier, Aldaba said innovative technologies, such as AI, can boost the country’s chances of thriving in a post-pandemic world. She said global challenges can be better addressed through innovative technologies, and Philippine firms cannot be left behind in this regard.

Aldaba highlighted the need to harness the power of innovative technologies for local firms to remain competitive in a post-pandemic world.

The DTI said that apart from being aware of innovative technologies, local firms would be able to embrace and adapt to new economic realities, which includes AI and other similar technologies.

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