Tuesday, January 30, 2007

4 million Filipinos use their mobile phone as virtual wallet

With a growing and maturing user base of Filipino mobile phone users, it is no wonder that we now have 4 million Filipinos using their mobile phone as a virtual wallet.

It reaches the point where we have to doubt on the success of non-bank plastic cards as a money remittance tool if they are not integrated with the mobile phone. Especially so that the country is targeting US$14.1 billion remittance in 2007.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Election monitoring through blogs

In my column at Manila Times today, I tackled election monitoring through blogs.

I'm curious to know if there are bloggers today who will be covering the May 2007 election developments through their blog. If you are, let me know about it as I'll be monitoring this activity closely and write about it, at least twice a month, at Manila Times.

Whenever I meet contacts today, I often ask, what do voters need to inquire whenever they encounter a candidate wanting to be elected? Here are some of the popular responses:

1. Do they have relatives running for elections as well or are in an elected-position at the moment? If we are against political dynasties, we should avoid candidates who already have relatives in an elected position (or who are also running for public office).

2. What is their point of view on changing the country's constitution?

3. What makes them different and worthy of being elected? What programs do they have that can be of value to town/city/country?

I hope that the media, website election trackers, and bloggers who will be monitoring the elections and the candidates should at least consider getting explicit answers/position on the above three.

Earlier this month, I got asked what do I think of Richard Gomez as a potential Senator. If he will indeed run for Senator, I will surely ask the above questions. Will Quezon City Councilor Atty. Bong Liban have a relative running also for an elected post?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

How Philippine travel agents are coping with the price wars?

Internet developments is forcing the online travel sector to mature much faster than it is capable to. Now, you have low cost carriers that apart from cost, has fast service too, and this is changing our expectations from the online travel sector. Travel agencies across the region are coming up with different programs to adjust and retain customers.

For Philippine travel agents, it seems loyalty programs, training, technology adoption, and focus on the corporate market as the way to go.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Twelve Internet Payment Service Providers in the Philippines

There are around a dozen Internet Payment Service Providers in the Philippines that allows merchants, like you and me, to accept payments online.

There are over 250 payment providers in the world that have been independently audited for the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. MasterCard lists them here. Note that the Philippines has a compliant gateway too in that list, YesPayments. Not bad. Note that this company also is in the works of launching a payment solution for small merchants. I hope there will be an online payment solution for individuals also soon.

Although we already have Paypal in the Philippines, it can only be used for sending money. This is a hassle when you use international Internet payment service providers who sends payouts through check. Especially true when you start processing check payments of over US$2000.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Call for speakers - iBlog3: The 3rd Philippine Blogging Summit

As already announced, we are now calling for speakers in the forthcoming iBlog3: The 3rd Philippine Blogging Summit. This is scheduled to happen on April 13 and 14, 2007 at U.P. Diliman, Quezon City.

We’d like to invite everyone to suggest themes, topics and speakers for this year’s sessions. You can send your session ideas to: jtoral[at-sign]iblogph.org.

As we are now on the 13th anniversary of the Philippine Internet, there's much reason to celebrate on iBlog3 this year. This is especially so that the Time Man of the Year are the global Internet users.

Help us build awareness on iBlog3. If you have made a post about it, let me know and will add it here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

PLDT WeRoam 2G got me through

The earthquake that happened prior to the entry of 2007 has disrupted Internet services from all over the region. It shows the fragility and our growing dependence on this infrastructure. The Philippines being the 6th most attacked nation on the Internet I guess did not got a break despite this setback.

However, I must admit that I'm kinda guilty for being insensitive with all the news that appeared online about this issue. The reason for that is I'm enjoying the best times online this past two weeks and this includes updating my podcast which is bandwidth intensive. My PLDT WeRoam 2G got me through. The great Internet experience I'm having right now is making me want to wait longer before getting into 3G / HSDPA.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Dr. William Torres - Father of the Philippine Internet

Dr. William Torres proposed connecting to the Internet as early as 1992. He approached former Department of Science and Technology Secretary Ricardo Gloria, who later agreed to fund this initiative putting Dr. Rodolfo Villarica in charge. This led to the creation of PH-Net. Internet-based email was already available at this time.

This is one of the stories featured in the Philippine Internet Review: 10 Years of Internet History where we interviewed Dr. Torres.

We considered Dr. William Torres as the Father of the Philippine Internet. His persistence and patience paved the way for the Internet connectivity we are enjoying today. (Although some have referred to him as "grandfather". For us, that meant he is the "father".)

Janette Toral (JT): Ten years ago, have you envisioned that the Internet will reach its present state today?

Dr. William Torres (WT): It has gone beyond my expectation. At that time, I see it as simply a tool for communication and accessing information. That’s all. But now, because of its useful application in businesses, the Internet has gone a long way. It is now the sole infrastructure if not for most businesses today.

JT: Which sector do you think has benefited the most from the Internet?

WT: It is the private sector. A lot have shifted their business to ICT-based. To a certain extent, some educational institutions have benefited.

JT: How would you describe the Internet evolution in the past 10 years?

WT: The first five years was about building the infrastructure. The main application was email and surfing. On the 2nd half, there was a growing sophistication in the application of the Internet, e-commerce took place. The World Wide Web (WWW) is the application that gave rise to enterprise-type of application.

In the past we are more interested in access. People would simply access the Internet and do whatever they want. However, people began to realize that there’s a purpose to access and putting up content, websites, and portals became more important. The Internet user is not interested to anything not of value or can contribute to increase in productivity.

The dotcom mania is in response to that expectation, that any content that they will produce will be accessed by people. They became wise. They are more interested in the value of information to their lives and to their work. Use it in education, use it business. The idea of cycles is not true, there’s a rise and end. It has to do with if people don’t get what they want or expecting, then they will be disappointed.

JT: What do you think are the reasons why the Internet has not taken off to a greater extent compared to other countries?

WT: One deterrent in the Philippines is that access is not taken for granted. Broadband is here but still expensive. We’re not moving as fast as we should in our infrastructure. The price of International Private Line (IPL) then is not only expensive, but it was in short supply. There’s a glut now that made it inexpensive. Being able to distribute bandwidth in the country, interconnecting different provinces, is still expensive though.

On another aspect, I can’t precisely agree that we are behind as projected by international reports. The measurements or criteria used in ranking developed, underdeveloped, and developing countries should not be the same. The telephone density for example, the Philippines can’t catch up as it is assessed now. It is usually measured at the number of telephone per 100 persons. It should be based on access, like how far or near a person is from a payphone. On the Internet, we are measured on access taking place from the home. We need to factor shared community access, then our number of people with Internet access will grow.

JT: With telcos competing with traditional ISPs today, how is Mozcom coping and keep its organization strong?

WT: We are shifting to value-added services. It is not true that we will remain strong. We will have to change our direction, moving from access to value added services. The strength will come from our being able to innovate in the same way that the WWW is an innovation of the usual applications of the Internet. It gave birth to numerous applications like e-commerce. We need to move on from the usual things that we do to new things.

Mozcom has 200 branches and partners before. More than half closed because they are no longer viable due to telcos penetrating the market. We are in 40 to 50 locations at the moment and maybe reduced to 10 in the next 10 years.

JT: I noticed that you are quite active in promoting e-learning. What would encourage schools to really consider it?

WT: We have to push for it more deliberately. We’re interested in applications that have nationwide impact. That is why we support e-government, e-commerce, and education.

Education needs help now and address a big problem of our country. Innovating is the only way to go. It is difficult to put up a fight with the telcos as they own the infrastructure. ISPs should now take the attitude that they can play together with the telcos. If everyone is into connectivity, the big players will win on the small ones. But on the area of value added services, there’s room for competition due to possible number of applications.

JT: What are the things that should take place in order for full Internet adoption be realized in the country?

WT: There are numerous challenges that need to be addressed. This includes:

The country’s current broadband map only tells us where we have access. It should focus on capacity and actual connectivity. The Commission on ICT can mandate this. A map should be able to describe the flow from Cebu to Manila, Davao to other points.

We need to have proper resources for our E-Commerce Law and Intellectual Property Rights laws be fully implemented. This includes having a functioning computer emergency response team.

We need to have a Convergence law that will allow us to integrate and make use of the different infrastructure like broadcast, cable, and satellite in developing and deploying applications. Although this is partly mentioned in the E-Commerce Law, the government agencies concerned did not come up with guidelines to implement that.

We still have piracy. We can’t really capitalize on our intellectual property if we don’t respect those of others. If we pirate software and content, ours can be pirated as well. Investment flow to our country is restrictive until our laws are properly implemented.

The Republic Act 7925 does not allow VAS providers to offer voice-related services. This has to be improved in order to make VOIP an easy-to-access and affordable commodity to all. At present, only telcos can offer this service putting ISPs at a disadvantage and unable to maximize the full potential of its Internet infrastructure.

In the next ten years, the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) can serve as focal point. We can consolidate our laws, policies, implementing rules and regulations in such a way that it can foster better competition and breed innovators to the use of the Internet for business.

The Internet per se may not profitable but its application in various forms in business, education, government, value may create more wealth to our country.

JT: But how about the private sector? It seems that the ICT community is very fragmented today.

WT: One of the many things we should do is to think of ourselves belonging to an industry. We should cooperate to make ourselves as better competitors. We must be active and strong in recommending policies. If we are a united industry, we could have a stronger voice in lobbying. Not only complaining but really explain from A to Z.

Internet security was only advocated by a few. It should have been promoted as an industry. Only if we have a strong association, people would listen to us more.

With the CICT, and hopefully becoming a Department of ICT in the future, we can now hold a department responsible for the industry concerns.

Reporting directly to the President, we don’t have to go to multiple agencies. Hopefully, the future will be better.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

SMS in Corporate Philippines: Isuzu Automotive Dealership

Isuzu Automotive Dealership Inc. started using short messaging service (SMS) platform software last November 15, 2005 from GiveMeUnlimited's InfoTxt SMS Platform.

Olive Garcia, ISD Manager of Isuzu Automotive Dealership Inc. (Alabang, Cavite, Cebu, Mandaue, Pasig) shared the company's experience.

Janette Toral (JT): What made you choose InfoTxt compared to other SMS platforms in the market?

Olive Garcia (OG): When compared to other products, our decision was influenced by the following:
  • User friendly web-based interface
  • Customers are charged P1.00/message
  • Supports picture and logo messages
  • Supports vcalendar messages
  • Easy to extract reports
  • It has a user base of 45 companies
  • Single point of contact for system support
  • Lifetime warranty of the system

JT: How important or of help are SMS platforms to your organization?

OG: Since we started using SMS platforms, we’ve experienced the following benefits:

  • Ability to document communications with our staff and clients, thus reducing dissatisfactions due to alleged miscommunications.
  • Ability to keep track of transactions such as customers giving go-ahead instructions to repair or sales orders.
  • Ability to validate the date and time our associates contact clients, thus improving customer service.
  • Savings on call charges.
  • Savings on mass mailing of Kilometer Checkup Reminders, Birthday Greetings, etc.
  • Possible reduction in cancelled repair orders or sales transactions.
  • Immediate announcements of special events, promotions, packages, etc. We have not yet fully utilized other features such as picture and logo messages and survey utility.

JT: If SMS platforms will improve or evolve, what would you like to see that can also be of help to organizations such as yours?

OG: I am not sure though if it’s present now, but it would be great to see the following:

  • Handle (to include report generation) incoming messages with pictures, logos etc
  • Automatic user credit loading
  • Archiving facility wherein you can just specify dates or messages to archive
  • Needless to say, improvement on the side of cellular carriers.

GiveMeUnlimited is one of the most successful wireless application software development companies in the Philippines. It received awards from various organizations recognizing the hard work poured in its InfoTxt SMS platform.

More stories:
State of Wireless Technologies in the Philippines v2

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Philippine Web Awards: To recognize the best Philippine websites on the Internet

Last week, I read Marc's blog post regarding the Philippine Web Awards (PWA). I was part of the first batch and can still recall the fun we had at the Hard Rock Cafe. When it was then free to join, there was a requirement that website nominees should upload the "nominated" logo and this didn't sink in well with some high traffic sites and decided not to join instead. With the entry fee and text voting, I guess the concept of an award-giving body is becoming more confusing to some segments of the Internet community.

The PWA is growing and constantly learning. My special cheers goes to Noemi Lardizabal Dado for winning the best blog and to EYP for best portal in the competition's 2006 edition.

Here's the interview feature that I made about Heinz Bulos, one of the original head organizers of the PWA. He was the editor then of the now-gone Web Philippines Magazine. (i miss that mag)

This is one of the stories featured in the Philippine Internet Review: 10 Years of Internet History that list all the winners of the Philippine Web Awards from 1998 to 2003.

Heinz Bulos
Philippine Web Awards
Website: http://www.philippinewebawards.com/
Mission: To recognize the best Philippine websites on the Internet.

The Philippine Web Awards is the premiere award giving competition recognizing the best Filipino websites on the Internet.

Janette Toral (JT): Please give a background about yourself and your Internet life.

Heinz Bulos (HB): I have a parallel career in finance, having worked in SGV and BPI. But I started using the Internet in 1996 when I first wrote for PC World Philippines, later penning its Web Watch column where I reviewed the first few Filipino Web sites then. Then PC World included an insert, which I edited, about Web site reviews, taken from The Web magazine of the US. A year later, WSCPC spun off The Web Philippines, with me as editor. I served in that capacity from 1997 to 2000, and resumed in 2002, renaming and reformating the magazine into a business and technology publication as Enterprise magazine later that year.

I was also WSCPC's Online Business Manager from 2000 to 2002, launching and managing the operations of our IT portal, ITnetcentral (http://www.itnetcentral.com/), and our publication sites. In total, I've been using the Internet for close to eight years. And given the nature of my work, I'm online almost everyday for almost the entire work day. The Internet, particularly The Web and e-mail, are an integral part of my professional and personal life.

JT: Can you give us a bit of history on how the Philippine Web Awards started?

HB: The Philippine Web Awards (PWA) started in 1998 as a project of The Web Philippines magazine (now Enterprise magazine). It was pattered after the Webby Awards of the US (Webbys). The Web magazine in the US--published by IDG (International Data Group), of which WSCPC (WS Computer Publishing Corporation, now Media G8Way Corporation) is the Philippine licensee--launched the Webbys in 1997.

As editor of The Web Philippines, I thought it was a good idea to extend the mission of the magazine--which is partly to recognize the growing number of Filipino Web sites--to another format for a wider audience. And the idea caught on.

JT: What is your role in the Philippine Web Awards?

HB: During the first two years, I was actively involved in practically all aspects-conceptualizing the awards guidelines, inviting judges, overseeing the judging process, promoting the awards, even writing the script of the awards night program!

Recently, I've taken a more consultative role, as each area of organizing an awards program has been delegated to specific committees. There are different people handling the judging process, the updating of the Web site, the promotions, the event management, etc. I do not have a direct hand or operating responsibility in the entire process but am always around for consultation. I still do help in promoting the awards in tri-media.

JT: Would you refer to the Philippine Web Awards as the FAMAS for the Internet set?

HB: Well, that's how we billed it when we launched it in 1997, since it's a quick way of getting people to understand what it's all about. While we no longer promote it as the FAMAS for the Internet set, it still boils down to a industry competition which awards the most outstanding Filipino Web sites of the year.

JT: How did the Philippine Web Awards mature/change year-after-year? What were the significant changes/milestones?

HB: The first few years were naturally a learning experience for us, given the ad hoc approach we took. It was a way like an Internet startup--bootstrapping and multitasking. We started in a small venue (Hard Rock Café in Glorietta, Makati) and moving up to bigger ones (Shangri-La, Meralco Theater, New World) later.

Every year, we have fine-tuned the judging process, making sure we cover loopholes. Definitely, the set of judges we've invited have increasingly become highly regarded, given their background and reputation in the web development community. We've had more and more judges who are well-known internationally. So there have been a lot less, if not no, complaints about their credentials.

We've been working with different web development companies for our Web site almost every year, and we've certainly improved in that regard. Their multimedia talents continue to wow the crowd during the awards night with their animated clips.

We've also done a better job in the People's Choice Awards segment, and last year we introduced SMS voting as a way of expanding further the audience of the PWA.

The awards night themselves have become much better-organized and continue to be entertaining. Some of the country's top bands and artists have performed at the PWA.

We changed the name from the Philippine Webby Awards to the Philippine Web Awards after seeking the advice of IDG. But they do recognize and encourage our efforts.

Now that we've formed a separate Events group, we'll be expanding the PWA franchise to cover more areas and groups. We'll also be introducing ancillary activities such as seminars. We're also looking into specific segments in the ICT industry that we can spin off as separate awards.

JT: People tend to say that awards like this are all hype. Do you agree with that?

HB: In one sense, it is hype in that it puts the spotlight on web developers. It's the closest thing to being a celebrity.

But there is substance to it, as it helps them in terms of exposure and promotions, which may lead to new business and career opportunities.

It also serves as a venue for promoting best practices in web design, content, and development.

JT: Why do sponsors support the Philippine Web Awards?

HB: Primarily because they believe in the concept. It also has that coolness factor which they might want to associate with. But more than that, they want to be associated with the promise of the Internet and New Media. They know these web developers are at the cutting edge of New Media and they want to support this effort to recognize them.

JT: Is the awards going to be institutionalized (or is it already)? Or will it just keep on moving for as long as there are sponsors?

HB: It's not institutionalized in the sense that there's a separate foundation or academy running it, ala the Academy Awards. But while the actual operations reside with us, it has the participation and support of the web community, whose members are perennial screeners and judges. In the end, it's the web community, along with some experts from other industries that decide the winners. It's peer competition if you look at it that way.

And it's practically a widely-recognized industry-supported awards program, which has the same credibility and support as awards programs of other industries. Press releases, news articles, brochures, annual reports, executive speeches, and other promotional materials of past winners--from the freelance web designer to the Top 100 companies--all mention their achievements at the PWA.

Winners of the Philippine Web Awards: 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Illegal recruiters online

With job search as one of the most popular online activities among Filipinos, it is no wonder that a lot of Filipinos fall into the trap of online illegal recruiters.
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