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Dr. Alan Cajes is the Vice President, Senior Executive Fellow and Project Leader of Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP)

With love and devotion for his country and its citizenry, this Filipino expert find what Leonardo da Vinci called “the joy of understanding” in a bulk of data.

Born in the banana capital of the Philippines, Davao del Norte is the hometown of this prolific and versatile Vice President and Senior Executive Fellow of Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) and Project Leader of the Smarter Philippines through Data Analytics R&D, Training and Adoption or SPARTA, Dr. Alan Cajes.

For Cajes, being a data scientist was more of necessity as his job requires him to deep dive into the huge volumes of data including Framework Formulation and Study of Spatial Development, Forecast-Based Emergency Preparedness, and Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment, which according to him use some degree of data science.

“This happens when we collect data the best way we can and allow such, using an acceptable method, to reveal to us new information that leads to new insights, and then new knowledge that can be used to improve the way we do things in the public, business, and civil society sector,” he shared.

In an email correspondence, Cajes revealed that his typical workday as a data scientist often involves reviewing literature and previous projects; discussing and framing questions with colleagues and project team members; designing, pre-testing, and enhancing the data collection instruments; printing the final version of these instruments and training the enumerators on how to administer such; as well as data cleaning that includes detecting, removing or correcting errors. Next is tabulating, interpreting, analyzing, and presenting the data, putting together the findings, reflecting on the recommendations, writing, and presenting the report. Then, celebrate success in project task achievement that contributed something new to the body of knowledge, and hopefully helps, no matter how little, to improve the Philippine society.

He virtuously described Filipino data scientists as keen observers, able to swim in an ocean of data, and find timely as well as reliable patterns among them. He continued, “they are artists who are creative in presenting their discoveries so that the intended users will appreciate and make informed decisions, be it in the form of policies, products or services that create public and customer value.”

“Filipinos can benefit from data science through employment opportunities for our data scientists and harnessing their expertise in solving socio-economic problems at the national and local levels, as well as creating public and customer value through new products, improved services, and evidence-based policies,” he said.

Recognizing the high demand for data scientists, he urged all Filipinos to seize this exceptional opportunity to become SPARTA scholars and live out the core values of Dangal (honor and integrity), Galing (smart and innovative), and Tatag (stable and future ready).

“But more than turning raw data into valuable insights,” Cajes says “data scientists are expected to have the skill set (e.g., data mining, data visualization, among others), mind set (e.g., curiosity and synoptic thinking) to provide meaningful and useful insights to decision makers and executives, and a patriotic calling of using data science to solve some of the challenges that we are facing such as infectious diseases, limited access to potable water, poverty, climate-related disasters, corruption, inefficiencies in the delivery of services, and many more.”

Recalling these traits that a data scientist must possess, he was reminded of an experience he had long ago with some of his trailblazing projects that the DAP conceived, designed, and implemented in the 70s including the Social Indicators Project (1974-75) that gave birth to the idea of the Social Weather Stations (SWS), and the Population, Resources, Environment, and the Philippine Future (PREPF), a forward-looking project in 1975-77 that explored historical trends in Philippine society and their implications for the future – 2000 A.D.

“Our pioneer data scientists showed us that there is an alternative way of probing the future – evidence-based analysis,” he explained. “That is why in 2016, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) tapped the DAP to design and implement a project like the PREFP. This is a Framework Formulation and Study of Spatial Development under the new normal with the idea to explore data and analyze their implications on safer settlements in the future.”

The life of a data scientist is quite like a roller coaster ride and even the Analytics Association of the Philippines (AAP) and Coursebank recognized that one must face the challenges in exponential growth of data and the limited number of data literate workforce.

"The estimate this year is that every person generates about 1.7 megabytes of data per second. This trend will increase with the emergence of smart city initiatives nationwide. If we don’t have the appropriate infrastructure support, big data warehousing and data mining won’t be easy," Cajes remarked. "APEC estimates 340,880 data science and data analytics workers will be needed in the Philippines by 2022. So, we have a huge demand compared to the supply, which is likely less than 20% of the demand."

He supported the claim of the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) about scarcity of DSA competencies in the current workforce and a misalignment between the demand and supply of DSA professionals in the country. Specifically, it revealed that the 10 DSA-related programs in the Philippines produced 176,597 graduates but only 38% or 62,583 workers were considered fit for the DSA field. Also, the International Labor Organization concluded that there is a risk posed by automation on about 49% of the workforce in the BPO industry.

This Filipino data scientist holds the notion that the country can become one of the “high potential” and then “leading” nation with the right policies and investments in appropriate infrastructure despite the World Economic Forum declaration that the Philippines fall under the “legacy” archetype in relation to Industry 4.0. Bold, albeit cautiously optimistic, he uttered that it is possible to become one of the global leaders in data science.

"Although we are about two years behind Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand in preparing for data science, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) remains steadfast in providing the required support. We have a good number of schools that offer degree programs in statistics compared to other Southeast Asian countries. We have a younger generation that we can train on data science and be mentored by experienced data science academics and practitioners," Cajes expressed.

Supported by the DOST, through the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD), and led by the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP), the Project SPARTA seeks to produce 30,000 data scientists through a massive online training program in data science, analytics and its related fields. It creates necessary online education, R&D mechanisms and infrastructure enabling data science and analytics to strengthen smart governance practices.

“We encourage them,” he says referring to the SPARTA scholars “to learn as much as they can on their own (through e-learning modules), and with their fellow scholars (through hackathons). They are the new breed of knowledge workers who can handle big data and provide useful ideas for new products, services, or policies to continually improve Philippine society.”

With experiential knowledge coupled with great fervor and incessant desire to solve complex problems, Dr. Alan Cajes becomes particularly adept at finding trends and obtaining insights from meaningful data.

“We look forward to the day when our SPARTA scholars become valued assets in their respective organizations, as well as coaches and mentors to a new generation of knowledge workers,” he says.

 

 

The latest version of aerosol monitor unit developed by the University of the Philippines Diliman

Researchers from the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD), in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD), has locally developed a low-cost, high-quality aerosol monitors to help find ways in minimizing air pollution in the cities.

Spearheaded by Dr. Len Herald V. Lim, the Robust Optical Aerosol Monitor or Project ROAM, was initiated to measure particulate matter concentration in the air. It provides crucial information to create policies and programs for environmental protection.

“ROAM units use a different method in detecting particles that does not require the manufacture/fabrication of specialized parts typical of contemporary commercial instrumentation. This allows a much lower production cost, smaller maintenance requirement, and an exclusive research chain,” said Dr. Lim.

The team has already produced 10 optical aerosol monitors. Four of these have been verified for performance through collocation experiments with aerosol equipment used by the DENR-EMB while the remaining six are being tested for performance and will be subject for stricter collocation experiments when conditions permit.

The ROAM team is now exploring the creation of a spin-off company through DOST-PCIEERD’s Funding Assistance for Spinoff and Translation of Research in Advancing Commercialization or FASTRAC program to help advance the commercialization of their technology and bring this citizen science project to the community.

DOST-PCIEERD executive director Dr. Enrico C. Paringit expressed hope that the technology can be adopted by local government units who want to improve their area’s air quality through scientific means.

“As leader and partner in enabling innovations, we encourage our researchers for coming up with cutting-edge solutions to solve major environmental and societal issues. This technology is one significant stride in our path towards improving air quality.  Now is a good time to cooperation with our innovators, adopt this solution to protect our future,” Paringit says.

Participants and organizers of the 5th batch of training of PGC under the IMBUE project.

MANILA—The Philippine Genomics Center (PGC), with support from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), has trained 101 biologists and healthcare professionals on bioinformatics to boost the country’s pool of computational biology experts.

Dubbed Internship Program for Increased Local Bioinformatics Utility and Expertise or IMBUE, the training program was conducted in six weeks and covered topics on general bioinformatics and computational biology.

DOST Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development Executive Director Dr. Enrico Paringit expressed high expectations for  trained experts on bioinformatics will bolster the country’s response to future health scares.

“We hope that with the training is a shot in the arm for our scientific community as it imputes a new skill into our pool of experts,” he said.

Of the 101 trained bioinformatics, 22 professionals are from Central Luzon State University, UP Manila National Institutes of Health, and PGC Mindanao Satellite Facility which focused on viral metagenomics or the study of bacterial genetic materials, and protein structure analysis.

Bioinformatics has been vital in understanding the composition of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that inflicts the COVID-19 disease. It collects and analyzes complex biological data of the virus from its basic composition to mutation.

“We believe that the key to understanding and dealing with the Sars-CoV-2 relies on research and development. Thus, we want to increase our critical mass of experts in Bioinformatics who can conduct such studies and hopefully result to drug discovery and development; and in other means that will harness the power of bioinformatics” Paringit said.

 
 
 

The Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) officially launched the Startup Grant Fund Program at the 4th Technology Business Incubator Summit, one of the major events at this year’s Philippine Startup Week.

DOST Executive Director Dr. Enrico Paringit disclosed that the Startup Grant Fund Program is the Council’s response to the demand for quick and rapid solutions adapting to the “New Normal”

“We hope to support startups with technology-based solutions that can potentially contribute to economic rebirth of our country.  By supporting the creation or deployment of more post-COVID19 products and services, we are looking at opportunities to provide additional jobs, raise revenue, and attract local and foreign investment,” he said.

Paringit said the Startup Grant Program will provide funding opportunities for innovative startups for their research and development (R&D) activities as they develop solutions in line with the program theme “Jumpstarting the Economy in the New Normal”.

He said the program intends to provide a fund mechanism that would support local startups, help them focus on providing solutions that are relevant to the needs of the people, and reinvigorate the economy during this post-COVID situation with provisions for the funding support, aligned with the Innovative Startup Act of 2019 (RA 11337).

The Startup Grant Fund Program is established to overcome R&D roadblocks by means of prototype improvement, conduct of feasibility studies, development of product specifications, as well as validate user requirements, to strengthen their intellectual property (IP) by means of protection and development of the appropriate IP strategies.

It also aims to help startups establish initial market traction and engage one (1) or two (2) potential users and/or clients for feedback/validation, to refine their business model based on the user and/or client feedback in order to establish acceptable product offerings or service packages with defined pricing and financial metrics, and lastly, to prepare business continuity plans for operations, expansion of IP protection in other countries, as continuous marketing programs.

The Program shall organize startups who will provide automated, digitalized, and contactless solutions under the following areas of concern:

  • Sustainable Industries - Technologies intended to fill-in the gaps in the value chain of critically important industries to increase productivity, reduce costs and facilitate production and distribution of goods in the new normal
  • Supply chain and logistics management - Technologies that reduce dependency on physical labor across transportation, logistics and warehousing; platforms for online matching and delivery of goods from source to point of use
  • Learning/Education - Technologies in support of remote learning, distance education, and online learning in response to the surge in online teaching in schools and universities
  • Work from home productivity tools - Productivity tools that remote workers can use for connection, collaboration, workforce monitoring, time management, etc
  • Content and talent development - Tech support for content and talent development, infusion/ enhancement of new digital tools and technologies, marketing and customer engagement activities
  • Digitally empowered Tools for public –service - Digital tools that will enable government agencies to consistently deliver public services at a faster rate, a wider reach but with enhanced accuracy and transparency

Paringit said the DOST shall issue the new guidelines for the Startup Grant Fund that is now more aligned to the provisions of the Innovative Startup Act.

He said public consultations will be conducted by DOST with the startups and startup community this December in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

“With the new guidelines in place, PCIEERD shall start officially accepting proposals for the Startup Grant Fund Program starting December 2, 2020 until February 1, 2021, we will be announcing the first batch of grantees of the new Startup Grant fund by May 2021,” he said.

In 2017, PCIEERD was the first to provide R&D grants amounting to P66M to fifteen (15) startups for them to overcome their R&D roadblocks, validate their products/services, strengthen their Intellectual Property, and refine their business model.

This enabled the 15 startups to collectively acquire 328 clients, generate P84M in revenues, raise P45M investment, and create 142 jobs. With the passage of the Innovative Startup Act (RA 11337), the other DOST Councils and agencies will also be implementing their own Startup Grant Program to cover more sectors and cater to more startups.

The Philippine Startup Week is an annual celebration organized by DOST, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), in partnership with QBO Innovation Hub and the startup community.

This year, the TBI Summit featured keynote messages and panel discussion of different local and international startups and startup enablers anchored on the theme “Building a Sustainable Startup Ecosystem in the Midst of the Pandemic”. 

Watch the DOST TBI Virtual Summit at https://www.facebook.com/dostpcieerd/videos/1087790648347192.

 

Electromagnetic radar system developed by DOST and MSU-IIT

Researchers from the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) has developed an electromagnetic radar that accurately detects underground water features. 

The Electromagnetic Radar Technique for Water Detection Project Leader Dr. Olga Joy Gerasta shared that their innovation can detect groundwater with greater precision through the electromagnetic waves it emits.

This electromagnetic radar system has custom-designed antenna that sends radio pulses into a material. Then, its integrated computer records the strength and time required for the return of any reflected signals.

Various energy reflections from geological structures like a water table and buried man-made objects like pipes  are picked up by the system and stored on digital media. Gerasta’s team identifies these objects using artificial intelligence (AI).

The radar system works best on dry, sandy soil wherein targets can be detected at depths of more than 20 feet.

The final radar system design was tested and verified in controlled set-up in Taytay, Iligan City and Iligan City’s selected low, middle, and high elevation areas.

The development of the technology was funded by the Department of Science and Technology Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD).

DOST-PCIEERD executive director Dr. Enrico C. Paringit underscored the significance of the innovations that MSU-IIT researchers achieved.

“As our groundwater supplies more than 50% of Filipinos’ potable water supply and 85% of piped water supply, this electromagnetic radar system will not only save us money, time, and effort in finding water sources, but it also allows us to easily map and monitor underground resources, plan efficient and safe ground excavation.” said Paringit.