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Philippines falls to 54th spot in UNCTAD’s Frontier Technology Index

The logos of Microsoft Corp. and OpenAI, as well as the ChatGPT 4 name, are seen in this photo illustration. — PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY JONATHAN RAA/NURPHOTO VIA REUTERS CONNECT

THE PHILIPPINES fell 10 spots to rank 54th out of 166 countries in utilizing frontier technologies for 2022, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

UNCTAD said in its Technology and Innovation Report that the Philippines’ ranking in the Frontier Technology Index was lower compared with 44th place in the previous year’s index.

Frontier technologies refer to artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), big data, blockchain, 5G, 3D printing, robotics, drones, gene editing, and nanotechnology.

The Philippines had a score of 0.62, equivalent to an “upper-middle” score, slightly higher than the previous score of 0.60.

The Philippines ranked higher than its neighbors such as Vietnam (62nd rank), Brunei (69th), Indonesia (85th), Cambodia (112th), and Myanmar (133rd).  However, it lagged other Southeast Asian nations such as Singapore (3rd), Malaysia (32nd), and Thailand (49th).

The United States led all countries in the 2022 index, followed by Sweden.

“Although developing countries are the least prepared to use frontier technologies, several economies in Asia have made important policy changes that have enabled them to perform better than expected according to their gross domestic product (GDP) per capita,” the UNCTAD said in a separate statement.

The index ranks 166 countries based on information and communication technology (ICT), skills, research and development (R&D), industrial capacity and finance indicators.

The Philippines saw a decline in ranking for the following indicators: ICT (94th from 76th last tear), R&D (52nd from 46th), industry (3rd from 2nd) and finance (80th from 52nd).

However, it improved its ranking for the skills indicator (79th from 88th).

Meanwhile, the UNCTAD said that the 17 frontier technologies covered by the report could have a market value of over $9.5 trillion by 2030, but warned that developing economies are left behind as developed economies are seizing most of the opportunities. 

The 17 frontier technologies include IoT, concentrated solar power, blockchain, nanotechnology, big data, 5G, biofuels, electric vehicles, gene editing, robotics, drone technology, 3D printing, wind energy, biogas and biomass, green hydrogen, solar photovoltaic, and AI.

“Developing countries must act quickly to benefit from this opportunity and move to a development trajectory leading to more diversified, productive and competitive economies. Previous technological revolutions have shown that early adopters can move ahead quicker and create lasting advantages,” the UNCTAD said. 

UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan said that developing countries could grow their economies by crafting related policies.

“This new wave of technological change will have a formidable impact on the global economy. Developing countries must capture more of the value being created in this technological revolution to grow their economies,” she said.

“Missing this technological wave because of insufficient policy attention or lack of targeted investment in building capacities would have long-lasting negative implications.”

Sought for comment, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said in a Viber message the Philippines should differentiate itself further in the higher end of the value chain that requires greater use of technology, and boost enrollment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses to ensure there are skilled graduates.

“However, this requires more financial resources especially on technology infrastructure, with the objective of further boosting productivity especially the shift to digital transactions from manual processes in government, agriculture (increased mechanization), manufacturing, and in other institutions,” he added. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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