A RECENT Forbes Magazine article listed the Philippines as the world’s sixth fastest growing market for freelancers (specifically those who work remotely via the Internet), based on the 2019 Global Gig Economy Index by online payments company Payoneer.
According to the index, the 2019 second quarter earnings of Filipino freelancers grew 35 percent from the year before. Such pace puts us at a rank higher than India (29 percent), Bangladesh (27 percent), Russia (20 percent) and Serbia (19 percent) — but behind Ukraine (36 percent), Pakistan (47 percent), Brazil (48 percent), the UK (59 percent), and the US (78 percent).
Indeed, in recent years, the so-called “gig economy” has grown significantly here in our shores. According to Paypal’s 2018 Global Freelancer Insights Report, the Philippines has apparently one of the highest freelancers per capita, among the 22 countries included and analyzed in the survey. In fact, as much as 2 percent — or 1.5 million — of the Philippine population are said to be freelancers.
Clearly, online freelancing has become a viable option for many Filipinos — not only for those in urban centers, but also in far-flung, rural areas, where at times long-distance connectivity is only possible via information and communications technology (ICT).
Numerous economic opportunities abound online. Hence, it’s reassuring to note that government projects like the Rural Impact Sourcing Project of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) exist to help our countrymen learn much-needed “digital skills.”
Recently renamed DigitalJobsPH Technical Training, this project aims to help people find work as digital entrepreneurs and freelancers in the ICT field. DigitalJobsPH targets socio-economically disadvantaged areas, where the target populations need the right education to land the right jobs in the online world.
The program’s beneficiaries undergo a comprehensive month-long program that focuses on marketing, content creation and development, and search engine optimization, as well as blogging and understanding cyber and data privacy laws.
Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are also assisted by DigitalJobsPH, as the project beneficiaries help local MSMEs with the creation of online presences and business platforms.
The results so far have been encouraging. In 2017, 597 graduated — a number which increased to 1,380 in the following year. Today, up to 230 have already finished training, with more to graduate in the coming months.
In total, up to 712 now have online jobs because of this DigitalJobsPh Training. Nearly 40 BPO companies have been established and more than a thousand MSMEs started their e-commerce activities between 2017 and 2018. Meanwhile, an estimated P34 million in total sales have since been generated.
This program is proof of how the right kind of education helps our countrymen find much-needed employment. This is why, as a vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance during the 17th Congress, we worked to increase the budget for this project.
Where the Executive initially proposed a P17.24-million in the 2017 budget for the office handling DigitalJobsPh, we raised it to P100 million. In 2018, we pushed for an additional P27-million allocation. Then for the 2019 budget, we sought an extra P20 million and directed the DICT to hold DigitalJobsPh training courses in 48 provinces, with at least 20 participants per location.
We believe this project helps people in economically challenged areas to find decent employment without having to venture far and leave their homes. Even better, the local MSMEs that will be encouraged by DICT will help rural and developing communities move ever faster towards economic stability and prosperity.
Apparently, the program has also helped persons with disabilities (PWDs) find jobs in traditional workplaces. The DICT itself has cited Ms. Racquel Sarah Castro, who underwent training. She was born with cerebral palsy, and in one of the DICT’s short films about her, she talked about how her disability discouraged people from hiring her. She did not allow that to stop her. She graduated at the top of her batch. She is now an author of a few independently published books, and her interest in writing has translated to content creation and web design. She, and others like her who have difficulty finding employment, are those who need DICT’s assistance with looking for opportunities online.
Filipinos by nature are drawn to the Internet. We are the top Internet users in the world, spending an average of 10 hours online daily, as social media companies WeAreSocial and Hootsuite have reported. Let us use that to our advantage, by pushing for education programs that will allow our citizens to find employment online.
Sen. Sonny Angara has been in public service for 15 years — nine years as representative of the Lone District of Aurora, and six as senator. He has authored and sponsored more than 200 laws. He recently won another term in the Senate. (Email: [email protected]| Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @sonnyangara)/PN