WHILE the country’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector has matured and diversified, an official from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (CanCham) challenged the industry to step up with the competition in terms of labor quality and cost within Southeast Asia. CanCham president Julian Payne, in an interview on Wednesday, said the Philippines benefits from its competitive advantage (cheap labor cost, excellent English communication skills, work culture, and time-zone advantage) in luring more multi-national ICT companies.However, he noted that failure to climb in the high value chain in outsourcing will put the industry’s growth at risk, with countries like India and the rest of Southeast Asia slowly stepping up efforts in attracting voice and non-voice segments in ICT and business process management. “The Philippines needs to remain competitive, not because it is less competitive, but because other countries are becoming more competitive,” said Payne in a press conference at the Cebu City Marriott Hotel. Payne warned the industry of India’s strong initiatives in dominating the high value services as well as the new and young graduates produced in universities in Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam. “We are always looking at India as our biggest competitor and we fail to realize there is also a threat from countries in ASEAN with new generation of graduates already equipped with American English communication skills, among others. Add to that, these countries are similar to the Philippines in terms of time-zone difference and offering cheap labor cost,” explained Payne. He said the industry needs to work harder but he is confident the industry’s growth would remain high, on the back of the new road map, which charts the direction of the industry up to 2022. “2017 calls for diversification and sustainability for the industry,” said the foreign chamber official. The Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) has recently launched Accelerate PH Roadmap 2022 with projections to create an additional 654,000 jobs generating approximately $40 billion in revenues by 2022. Payne was in Cebu to launch the 11th ICT Awards Philippines 2017 in collaboration with IBPAP. Payne announced that the award giving body is embarking on a subtle shift for next year, focusing on the best companies and their teams in the industry. For 2017, 15 award categories will be given out, of which four are new awards. Instead of awarding individuals and personalities, the ICT Awards 2017 will highlight the Best Company of the Year and the Best Employer of the Year as the two top awards. It will also launch the new Best C-Suite of the Year to recognize the importance of the management team, replacing Best CEO of the Year. Likewise, CanCham and IBPAP will launch a new First-Time Nominee of the Year Award to encourage new nominees. It will also launch a new Best Mobile App Developer Company to replace Best Mobile App of the Year. The award giving body will also adjust the Most Popular Team Leader Award to Best Front-Line Team of the Year (to be represented by the team leader) using online voting and to recognize front-line teams. Payne also announced they will discontinue the Cities for ICT Award and the Best Individual Contributor of the Year Award. CanCham will start accepting nominations by January next year and will be closed by the middle of February. The awarding is slated on March 22 at the Marriott Resorts World Grand Ballroom.