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Sep 22nd
Home Columns Ike Señeres Revival of the Cooperative Movement
Revival of the Cooperative Movement PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Ike Señeres
Written by Ike Señeres   
Friday, 06 May 2011 14:49



By Ike Señeres


I was a victim of the inefficiency of two cooperatives, and that is why I lost interest in the cooperative movement for so many years. In one case, a coop forfeited my shares for the simple reason that I was no longer connected with the government agency that I used to work for. It gave me a bad feeling, because I was instrumental in giving them a profit center that enabled them to earn millions even after I left. In another case, the coop has not given me my shares of stock for so many years until now, citing the reason that they could not locate my records.


Had it not been for Dr. Virginia Teodosio of the University of the Philippines School of Labor and Industrial Relations (UP-SOLAIR), I would not have restored my faith in the cooperative movement. She showed me the true picture that many cooperatives are now successful, and are now being run efficiently. Thereafter, it was Mr. Orly Peña of Asian Business Consultants (ABC) who convinced me that the cooperative movement is actually our last chance now to democratize the fair distribution of wealth in this country.


In a manner of speaking, it could be said that the failed or failing cooperatives in this country reflect a microcosm of the bigger reality in the Philippines. Their leaders are probably corrupt, and their members are seemingly indifferent. In the same manner that the new leadership is showing a determination to move away from the path of corruption, there is now a chance within the cooperative movement to reform, and move towards a righteous direction.


Since the apparent problem is not just corruption but also the mismanagement of the cooperatives, the logical solution is the training of their managers so that they could be professionalized and be properly equipped to lead their members towards a more orderly and a more profitable conduct of business. Before that however, they should comply with the basic requirement of the cooperatives law that tells them to engage the services of professional managers, and not to appoint managers from among themselves.


Just like any modern enterprise, it is now time for the cooperatives to adopt new technologies in order to improve the conduct of their businesses, and that should start in the computerization of their business processes. This should of course include the adoption of new information and communications technologies (ICT).


F or so many years now, I have been thinking about ways that would make it possible to make use of ICT to benefit agriculture in this country. I have thought of many ways, but recently I had the chance to come across some new ways of using programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to control the quality of fruits and vegetables, so that this would conform exactly to the specifications of the buyers. To some extent, it could be said that PLCs are the heavy duty versions of personal computers (PCs).


In theory, PLCs could be used to control any outcome in any process, and that is why this technology is very useful in manufacturing, and happily now in farming or agriculture too. This would include controls in color, shape, size, temperature, humidity and even in the pattern of looks or appearances. In some ways, optical mark reader (OMR) and optical character recognition (OCR) technologies could also be used for this purpose.


As PCs and laptops have become smaller, so have point of sale (POS) machines, thus making it now possible for small and medium enterprises, of course including the cooperatives to use these devices since these are now affordable. As an extra benefit, these gadgets now come in handheld versions that are equipped with transmission and communications features, thus making them ideal for use in electronic commerce transactions.


In the same way that big corporations are now making money and saving money by using ICT, small enterprises and cooperatives could do that too now, and there are no more limitations for them to do that. The best way for them to start however is to plan their systems very well, and they should know that we are not lacking in local talents who could help them to do it right.


As additional good news to the cooperatives, ICT technologies have now moved towards “cloud computing” sometimes called “software as a service”. What this means is that small businesses could now computerize their operations without having to buy their own servers or without putting up their own data centers. In this approach, they would just pay per transaction or per service provided. As usual, I would say that machines are just tools for people to use, and having said that, I would now emphasize that what is more important is for the leaders of cooperatives to modernize their thinking first, for the good of their businesses. # # #


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