BPOs must innovate to tackle artificial intelligence threat

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ARTIFICIAL intelligence (AI) could wipe out thousands of jobs in the country’s fast-growing business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, but the industry can address this threat through innovation and training, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said on Wednesday.

“One solution to this technology’s threat is to modify and remodel the existing jobs’ nature. Another way is the organization of groups necessary in the infusion of science and technology to other fields or areas for the realization of establishing a comprehensive network,” Lopez said.

The most important aspect, he said, is to conduct training and related activities.
“In simpler terms, we will endeavor to make this new technology work for them,” Lopez said.

The threat posed by AI technology is that it could replace humans in certain tasks, such that computers could be programmed to answer common problems raised in call center transactions at faster speeds.


The BPO industry is a key contributor to the country’s economic growth. According to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) data, the industry employed an estimated 1.3 million individuals last year and generated more than $25 billion in revenues.

Lopez underscored the need to develop an inclusive, innovation-led industrial ecosystem that will upgrade the competitiveness of the Philippine core sectors, including the services sector, in a bid to improve productivity and output generation.

“There is a need to strengthen the curriculum toward computer science, engineering, data science and AI application design, among others. This effort is also deemed to be inclusive as disqualified BPO applicants and retrenched agents will be retrained for AI application development that will eventually enable them to get jobs,” Lopez added.

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