The government warned against over-regulating the technology

THE co-founder of a social impact tech startup has warned the government against over-regulating technology in the country.

“A lot of us are concerned about over-regulation,” Connected Women chief executive officer Gina Romero said in an interview with Business and Politics, a weekly show hosted by Manila Times chairman Dante “Klink” Ang 2nd and aired on SMNI on Saturday evening.

“Because this is a booming opportunity for the country, potentially over-regulating will cause it to shrink. We don’t want to lose our potential there.”

Romero, a 2022 TOWNS (The Outstanding Women in Nation’s Service) award winner for Women’s Empowerment through ICT, emphasized that “technology enables us to impact more people and create more greatness”.

Referring to the technology space, Romero emphasized that the challenge is to build trust and relevance at all levels.

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“People are nervous about technology, especially new technologies like AI (artificial intelligence),” she said. “There’s a lot of different conversations, so it’s really important that people making decisions really talk to the experts a lot.”

Romero, who has campaigned for women’s empowerment for 17 years, noted that the Philippines has “some really top-notch, world-class data scientists” who have studied the technological challenges around the world and have a very deep understanding of their potentials and theirs have dangers.

“We have so many innovative minds in the Philippines. We really need to consult with them and make sure they get involved,” she said. “It takes a lot of conversations to build that trust and that relevance, otherwise we run the risk of making decisions that negatively impact large groups of people.”

Romero said the government could start by talking to organizations like Connected Women.

She said her group’s focus is on not leaving people behind.

Romero said that although people now see the Philippines as a potential hub for technology, this can only happen if both the government and the private sector continue to improve their skills and support social impact organizations like Connected Women.

“We [social-impact organizations and entrepreneurs] need to be taken seriously like start-up organizations because the potential for both commercial and impact returns is huge,” she said.

Romero lamented that she had found it very difficult to find funding to scale and develop skills.

Social impact businesses are a relatively new concept, particularly in Asia, she said.

“The social enterprise model is that you can make money, but you can also embed doing good in your business,” Romero said.

She said there are many social impact entrepreneurs in the country, but many of them tend to turn away from technology.

“It’s really a shame. We need to encourage more entrepreneurs to use technology because it can scale the impact and help more people,” Romero said.

For this reason, education is also very important, especially to develop technological skills as early as possible, she said.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to be knee-jerk on this topic because now we have an opportunity to really look at what we’re teaching the kids,” Romero said.

“Let’s remember about the jobs of the future, we don’t know that yet. We cannot rely on our education now to provide all the talent and skills we need for the future,” she said.

“There is a great opportunity to explore how technology can support education and how it can support the future of work,” she said. “We need a lot of different people to talk to because if we just have the educators working on education, we won’t be able to build for the future until now.”

Romero also thinks it is important to “further advance the digital infrastructure” in the country.

Amid the “layered complexities even in countries outside of the Philippines, which are very large and dispersed,” Romero noted that “it’s amazing that we’re making the progress that we’re making.”

“I was actually pleasantly surprised when I came back. I thought it was a lot worse from what I heard but the connectivity isn’t that bad,” said Romero, who has lived in the UK since she was 6 months old and recently returned to the Philippines to found Connected Women.

The group was launched in 2010 and provides online training, development and remote work opportunities to women in the Philippines.

Its flagship program, Elevate AIDA (Artificial Intelligence Data Annotation), aims to equip women from grassroots communities with market-ready data annotation skills for the AI ​​industry.

Capabilities include tagging, classifying, and processing text and images for AI applications.

Connected Women customers and partners include Meta, PLDT, Union Bank, ScaleHub, Aboitiz and Smart.

“Many women come to us with no educational background or experience in technology or AI. After they complete our training, we give them access to mobile and flexible work and make sure they get a decent wage and the opportunity to continue their education,” said Romero, whose mother was one of the pioneering domestic workers working in the 1970s years went to Great Britain.

She said she wanted to dispel the misconception that social enterprises are poor, small and charitable.

“A social enterprise does good because that good is built into the business model, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be profitable… There should be a shift in thinking,” Romero said.

She said that in terms of developing future skills, Connected Women is a flagship project not only for the Philippines but worldwide.


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