My Journey as an Eisenhower Fellow
(Summary of My Eisenhower Fellowship written on July 2, 2012 and Published in Negros Weekly in 2012 Divided into 3 Parts)
INNOVATION AND CREATIVITY (Part 1)
Why am I an Eisenhower Fellow? This was the question that kept me going for the last seven weeks. Not “what is Eisenhower Fellowships?” nor “what I can I get from my Eisenhower Fellowships?”
At the start of my fellowships, my answer to the question was – because I am the chair of the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines (NICP), a network of thirty-five councils, federations and organizations representing cities and provinces from all regions of the country and because I am known in the advocacy against human trafficking, having authored various local policies and initiated programs to curb human trafficking, and have co-founded the Anti-Trafficking Legal Advocates Society (ATLAS), Inc. with my spouse, Arnel Sigue, who joined me in my 7-week journey to search for the real answer. Now I realized it is not what I have done but what I will continue to do.
As stated in my one page bio, I have planned “to examine how information technology can benefit public accountability, government transparency, education and health, and to improve her knowledge about information technology enabled-services and business process outsourcing (ITES-BPO)”.
After seven weeks, I have a totally different answer to my question – Why am I an Eisenhower Fellow?
Now it seems it is difficult to identify just three key topics or questions that I explored during my fellowship that I have bundled the topics into three titles instead and proceeded to describe my major findings and/or conclusions with respect to each, the learning that made the greatest impression or was most surprising. Separate matrices attached to this report will contain the techniques or approaches employed in the U.S., particularly by the people and organization I have interviewed.
I learned about innovation and creativity, empowerment and understanding, and collaboration and synergy. This is my program report which is divided into three parts beginning with lessons in innovation and creativity.
Creativity and innovation work at the core of US companies involved in information and communications technology, whether as industry associations and policy advocates like the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC), Information Technology Industry Foundation (ITIF), Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) and the e-Health Alliance of Texas, or multi-national companies like IBM Corporation at the Research Triangle Park, Microsoft, Dreamworks or Facebook, or medium-scale companies like Spectraforce, VACO and Narrasoft in North Carolina or incubators like Plug and Play Center in Silicon Valley or the Center for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) in Durham.
These institutions – whether private of public – has manifested the core value of innovation, the search for a more better way to do things and the realization that with the Information Age, no industry or nation can survive without embracing technology and realizing the power of information.
Creating and making available ecosystems where risk is encouraged, where failure is part of growth, and where spaces to grow are provided mark many of these US companies. Dreamworks believe in the potential of each and every employee by providing them more leeway to explore their skills and determine which are they will best excel. Microsoft, IBM, Facebook and Dreamworks have provided a campus-like work environment for thousands of their employees, taking into consideration the availability of green work spaces and less, if non-hierarchical organizational structures.
IBM continuously reigns supreme in big data and systems integration because they have kept on evolving and harnessing innovation for almost a hundred years. Their data centers are the best there is in terms of reliability, energy-efficiency and environmental sustainability. It is inspiring to see many IT companies in the US investing on environmental systems and strategies reduce their carbon footprint.
I have seen innovation and creativity work for organizations, working in the private and public sector to curb human trafficking. My participation in the Global Slave Trade Conference in South Texas College, McAllen, enabled me to see the innovative strategies of other organizations in educating the public about human trafficking – films like “The Dark Side of Chocolate” by Roberto Romano opened my eyes to the realities of child labor in the Ivory Coast attached to the chocolate bar I eat. Cultural events, song, poems and many other artistic strategies are effectively explored by many organizations as a way of making the US (and other countries) aware that human trafficking is not a vague concept, but could be happening within your neighborhood. I was able to learn about the challenges of Texas as a border state in terms of labor trafficking and the many ways local stakeholders address this problem.
Innovation is an imperative in the health information technology (HIT). The huge amount of data, unsorted and very useful, lie waiting for health IT strategies and as the US approaches the advent of Health IT – it prepares its people for HIT work – a challenge embraced by three major universities in Texas, funded by the US government. In my interviews, University of Texas and Texas State university offer existing and new curriculum programs offered face-to-face in classrooms and online distance settings to radically address the extraordinary demand for health informatics professionals as a result the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 directed toward increasing provider adoption of electronic health records, improving patient care via the comprehensive management of health information, and the secure electronic exchange of information between entities.
The Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE) Project in their primary advocacy of bringing an end to human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children and adults (CSEC/CSE), employ innovative treatment services for survivors such as alternative medicine, yoga, natural healing and light therapy.
Very inspiring and educational for me was the exposure to the innovative programs that help in the growth of start-ups at the Plug and Play Center in Silicon Valley and through the programs of STAC Silicon Valley, as well as the incubated start-ups at the American Tobacco Factory assisted by the Center for Entrepreneurial Development (CED). I am more inspired today to develop and help develop incubation programs and entrepreneurial conferences to link Filipino “technoprenuers” to the global market.
EMPOWERMENT AND UNDERSTANDING (Part 2)
Last week, I started to share my program report as an Eisenhower Fellow of the Philippines for 2012. I was fortunate to be among the 21 fellows from different countries who followed an intense program of 50-60 meetings and conferences with leading experts in their field, speaking engagements and cultural events with leading experts in their field wherever they are located in the US, typically visiting eight to ten US cities. The EF program provides professional enrichment, leadership development and network expansion. Fellows have an opportunity to take time out from their occupations to meet leaders and senior experts in their field, enhance their leadership skills, and become part of a global network of Eisenhower Fellows.
My program report was divided into three parts beginning with lessons in innovation and creativity, followed by empowerment and understanding, and collaboration and synergy. This week, let me share with you my lessons in empowerment and understanding.
The industry associations like the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC), Information Technology Industry Foundation (ITIF), Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) and e-Health have shown how empowered the private sector, particularly business and industry associations is in terms of shaping the policies of the US, specific states as well as the international arena. The ITIC, more particularly, champions the economic sustainability of the IT industry by maintaining a strong voice for global policy issue like the expansion of the IT Agreement (ITA) and partnering with various countries in all their advocacies.
I am now more convinced than ever that for the Philippines to be a string contender among the Asian countries, it has to establish a strong and sustainable cabinet-level agency – which is the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). A bill creating such department has been approved by Congress along with major bills related to information technology – the data privacy and security law and the anti-cybercrime bill. The industry need to be empowered to push for these policies, which will drive the economy from being government-driven to being citizen centric.
All organizations I interviewed who are advocating against human trafficking believe that the public must understand the issue, not only trafficking for sex and prostitution but for purposes of forged labor, peonage, sale or organs, and other forms of exploitation. SAGE, International Justice Mission, and RATT MERCOSUR and Associated Countries United Against Human Trafficking, among other organizations, are working towards advocating and supporting policies within a countries that recognize human trafficking as a problem and ensures that the basic international standards, such as respecting the rights of the victims and reintegration as well working on prevention and public education are embodied in these policies.
The Eisenhower Fellowships network fosters international cooperation, furthering what Dwight Eisenhower said was the purpose of the program, which is to further in very practical ways mankind’s highest goal: peace with justice.
COLLABORATION AND SYNERGY (Part 3)
Finally, the last part of my program report for my Eisenhower Fellowships is all about collaboration and synergy.
I noted that Dreamworks invest in identifying the right talent, and ensuring collective inputs over every major production.
SAGE’s approach is collaborative as well as prevention and solution oriented and is about restorative justice that benefits individual communities and the whole of our society. This is true with all the organizations working against human trafficking. SAGE, CSA County San Diego and Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition believe in the importance of collaborating with all the stakeholders to ensure rescue, protection and reintegration of victims.
The Professional University Resources and Education for Health Information Technology (PURE-HIT) consortium project, which is supported by a $5.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is anchored on the collaboration of the Texas
State University-San Marcos in collaboration with The University of Texas at Austin College of Natural Sciences and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Biomedical Informatics. The key officials I interviewed highlighted the need to collaborate with industry players to ensure a more relevant and industry-based curriculum and training modules. The University of Texas, specifically stressed the fruitful collaboration between their Health IT programs and the e-Health Alliance of Texas, which is an industry organization.
I was fortunate to join the delegation of the Philippine Embassy to the US led by Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia during the Memphis in May Festival which staged “A Salute to the Philippines” for this year. The event highlighted the growth and potential of the Philippines IT-BPO industry. The representatives of the country in San Francisco, New York and Washington DC have exhibited collaborative approaches to their US counterparts and stakeholders in nurturing business ties, as well as in solving and addressing labor and human trafficking issues.
When asked to personally share an experience I had or insight I gained during the course of my fellowship that was completely unexpected at the beginning of the experience and whether this has changed your view of your profession, of your country or the United States – I must say that the whole experience did exactly all of that for me.
Today I see a much bigger world, connected not only by bodies of water and land masses – but by oceans of ideas, and engulfed by the human spirit of wanting a better world, a better community, and better life. I have realized more firmly than ever that the US and the Philippines have their own day-to-day problems, and whether big and small, there is one crucial element that keeps these two countries strong and going – its people, endowed with creativity, striving for innovation, ever engaged and willing to understand one another to share in the benefits of collaboration and synergy. These are the values that keep a country together – more than any other factors.
The fellowship experience has greatly contributed to my development not only as a leader but as a human being. It has made me discover the true force that binds nation together and the relations that bind nations with other nations in the world – its people. It has given me the real answer to my question – why am I an Eisenhower Fellow – and that is because this world needs people to keep it one and whole, making it stronger, and able to weather all the challenges ahead. I am an Eisenhower Fellow because I am one of them.