THE law creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) came into effect on June 9, bringing to fruition more than 10 years of efforts to create a full-blown executive department to champion—and regulate–the industry.
Under the new law, the DICT will be the primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing and administrative entity of the executive branch, in charge of planning, developing and promoting the national ICT development agenda.
Operationally, the law removes all units with communication functions from the Department of Transportation and Communication, which will be renamed the Department of Transportation.
The new department will also absorb the National Computer Center, the National Telecommunications Training Institute, the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO), the Telecommunications Office and the National Computer Institute, which are all abolished by the new law.
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), National Privacy Commission and the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Center will now be attached agencies of the new department.
The department will be headed by a secretary, assisted by three undersecretaries and four assistant secretaries. All positions require at least seven years of expertise in ICT, information security management, e-commerce, human capital development in ICT, cybersecurity, data privacy or IT service management.
Additionally, two of the four assistant secretaries should be career officers, and one of the four must be a licensed professional electronics engineer.
Among the DICT’s powers and functions are focused on four areas: policy and planning; improved public access; resource-sharing and capacity-building; and consumer protection and industry development.
In the area of policy and planning, the DICT will
• Formulate, recommend and implement national policies, plans, programs and guidelines that will promote the development and use of ICT:
• Formulate policies and initiatives to develop and promote ICT in education: and
• Provide a framework to optimize all government ICT resources and networks.
In terms of improved public access, the department will:
• Prescribe rules and regulations for the establishment, operation and maintenance of ICT infrastructures in unserved and underserved areas; and
* Establish a free internet service that can be accessed in government offices and public areas
In resource-sharing and capacity-building, the department will:
• Harmonize and coordinate all national ICT plans and initiatives;
• Ensure the development and protection of integrated government ICT infrastructures and designs, taking into consideration the inventory of existing manpower, plans, programs, software, hardware, and installed systems;
• Assist and provide technical expertise to government agencies in the development of guidelines in the enforcement and administration of laws, standards, rules, and regulations governing ICT;
• Assess, review and support ICT research and development programs of the government;
• Develop programs that would enhance the career advancement opportunities of ICT workers in government; and
• Assist in the dissemination of vital information essential to disaster risk reduction through the use of ICT.
For consumer protection and industry development, the DICT will:
• Ensure and protect the rights and welfare of consumers and business users to privacy, security and confidentiality in matters relating to ICT:
• Support the promotion of trade and investment opportunities in the ICT and ICT-enabled services;
• Establish guidelines for public-private partnerships in the implementation of ICT projects for government agencies; and
• Promote strategic partnerships and alliances to speed up industry growth and enhance competitiveness of Philippine workers and companies in global markets.
On paper, the DICT looks good.
Certainly, few can argue with the statement of policies in the law that creates it. These acknowledge the need to recognize, albeit belatedly, the vital role of ICT in nation-building. These also speak of the need to ensure strategic, reliable, cost-efficient ICT infrastructure and resources as instruments of good governance and global competitiveness, and to ensure universal access to quality, affordable, reliable and secure IT services.
It has been a long and often winding road getting here, beginning in 2004 with the creation of Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT). Headed at the time by former IBM Phils. president Virgilio Peña, the commission was seen as a transitory measure to the creation of a full-blown ICT department.
Although the NTC was originally attached to the commission, this key agency was bounced around like a football, to the DOTC in 2005, back to the CICT in 2008, then to the Office of the President in 2011.
The CICT went through four commissioners until it was abolished in 2011 without realizing its ultimate goal of transforming itself into a full department. A bill to create a DICT approved by the House of Representatives in 2008 failed to pass muster in the Senate.
In 2011, President Aquino renamed the CICT to the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) and transferred it to the Department of Science and Technology.
ICT policy wonk Al Alegre of the Foundation for Media Alternatives, who worked in ICTO for about two years during this period, gives credit to Undersecretary Louis Napoleon Casambre for streamlining the ICTO member-agencies to be more efficient–and to prepare for the transition to the DICT.
“From 3,700 people originally, he got it down to less than 1,000 after a complex rationalization plan that also upgraded salaries. This and the updated structure and functions can now be carried over to the DICT and will be one of Casambre’s and ICTO’s lasting legacies,” Al says.
But uncertainty remains.
The late passage of the law puts the decision of who will head the new department firmly in the hands of the incoming Duterte administration. A mandated six-month transition period from ICTO to DICT will reveal more of the Duterte ICT agenda, details of which have been sparse.
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