Filipino workers want to upskill in AI, but poor internet access and lack of time are hurdles


September 29, 2023 | 4:09pm

MANILA, Philippines — Knowing how to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming a must-have digital skill for workers in the Philippines, a new study shows, but the country’s poor internet infrastructure is also the top hurdle for those who want to self-study.

A 2023 study conducted by The Economist Impact and supported by Google shows that 42% of Filipino employees want to acquire new digital skills related to AI and Machine Learning (ML), among others — a rate higher than their Asia-Pacific neighbors (33%).

However, despite the demand for opportunities to upskill,  around 41% of Filipinos said that poor internet access is a major hindrance to enrolling in online courses while nearly 40% said they don’t have the time required to invest in learning new skills.

Course fees were cited as a barrier by 30% of respondents, while another 30% noted the absence of training opportunities in their workplaces as a hurdle.  

However, the survey also shows that most Filipinos only consider AI and ML skills as the 7th most important digital skill to learn, with IT support (65%) and data analysis and visualization (55%) topping the list. 

With Filipinos appearing to exhibit higher-than-average interest in digital upskilling compared to the Asia-Pacific region, Google Philippines’ Yves Gonzales said this implies that there is a substantial “gap” in the knowledge of Filipino workers who already see the importance of digital skills but don’t have it.   

The recent surge in popularity of generative AI tools like ChatGPT has ushered wild speculations about how AI could dramatically change workplaces and the availability of jobs in the market. 

A recent study by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization found that the wave of generative AI is more likely to “complement” rather than “substitute” jobs but warned that clerical work would most likely be the most affected category of jobs.

Another study by LinkedIn found that as many as 76% of Filipinos agree that AI will change their jobs in the next year, with most Filipinos saying they were “excited” about how to use AI tools at work.  

Riding the AI wave 

The rapidly expanding digital economy in the country means that Filipino workers have to learn new skills to take advantage of the creation of new jobs in the field, Department of Information and Communication Technology Director Teresa Magno-Garcia said during Google Philippines’ launch of the study.

Citing a 2019 study by the International Telecommunication Union, Magno-Garcia said only an estimated 6% of Filipinos aged 15 and above have basic digital skills or the ability to copy and move files on a computer. Meanwhile, just 2% have standard digital skills, while less than 1% have advanced digital skills. 

Magno-Garcia said that while the DICT has yet to partner with the Department of Education on teaching students advanced digital skills in AI, it has already formed plans to increase students’ digital literacy.

During the event, Google launched free generative AI skills development courses under its Cloud Skills Boost Program. These courses cover various topics like Introduction to Generative AI, Large Language Models, Responsible AI, among others.

The tech giant has also opened applications to fund startups that seek to use AI as the core technology to develop products or solutions. 

“Through the Google for AI Startups Cloud Program, startups now have the opportunity to access much-needed cloud credits of up to US$350,000 over two years,” Google said in a press release.

It has also launched three new digital courses — Business Intelligence, Advanced Data Analytics, and Cybersecurity– in its Google Career Certificates program. 

“These certificates are professional credentials that help enable people from all backgrounds to earn job-ready skills in high-growth digital fields such as IT Support, UX Design, E-commerce and Digital Marketing,” Google said.

“Google is a committed partner of the country in helping build a Digital Philippines. Through our technology, skilling programs, and partnerships, we will continue to help unleash the potential of the digital economy and empower the workforce of the future,” said Google Philippines Country Director Bernadette Nacario.


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