The State Of ICT Governance In The Philippines
I was listening yesterday to the announcement of the new cabinet members by our new President Benigno S. Aquino III with a keen interest on who would be the next head of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT). Hearing none after twenty-five (25) names were mentioned to be the next heads of the different executive departments in our government, I assumed that he may not have yet found someone to head CICT. When the question and answer (Q&A) time came, one reporter asked the President why there was no announcement of who will head CICT and he replied that the commission is regarded as one below the cabinet level so appointment of its head will be done later.
The incident is just but one indication of how the new administration consider the ICT sector with regards to its importance to the nation’s economy. During the campaign, I did not hear the then presidential candidate “Noynoy” Aquino speak about his plan for the ICT sector. There was even a negative publicity that CICT which was created only by Presidential Proclamation will be abolished and its function will be relegated under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) if their ticket wins the election. In fairness to our new President, I heard him say in the same Q&A that he will act accordingly if the bill creating a department for ICT is refiled and passed by the legislature to become a law.
The Philippines is one of the only countries in Asia which does not have a full-fledged Department of ICT (DICT). The delay in having a DICT has frustrated many stakeholders who see the DICT as a necessary step towards the Philippines becoming a world-class IT hub. If created through enactment of a law, the DICT will focus on four key areas; namely, a) supporting the ICT sector, b) pushing for e-governance, c) developing ICT skills, and d) promoting universal access to ICT.
The Internet café business as an industry that readily falls under ICT governance must support the creation of DICT. As it is nowadays, any agency or unit of government can enact rules and regulations in the guise of of public protection without even hearing the side of i-café owners and stakeholders. Having a DICT that will formulate the policies governing the conduct of i-café businesses will go a long way in protecting the investments in the industry.