Wednesday, July 6, 2011

ICT takes a backseat

Two weeks ago, the President issued Executive Order No. 47, which in gist, demotes the Commission on Information Communications Technology (CICT) to a lesser role in government.

The CICT was created in 2004, through EO 269, as a provisional measure until Congress passes a law establishing a Department of Information Communications Technology (DICT). The EO placed all the agencies of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) that deal with communications under the CICT, and gave the CICT's commissioner the rank of a Cabinet member. The CICT was placed directly under the Office of the President.

With EO 269, the CICT is renamed the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO), and placed under the supervision of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). The ICTO shall be headed by an executive director, who shall have the rank of an undersecretary. Several agencies, such as the the National Computer Center (NCC), Telecommunications Office (TELOF), shall be under with the ICTO, while other agencies, such as the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and the Philippine Postal Corporation (PHILPOST) shall continue to be under the Office of the President.

I don’t get it.

What is the point of this reorganization, and how could it better regulate our ICT sector?

First, the previous set up seems to be working. The Philippines last year overtook India as the leading provider of IT-BPO services. We are now the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) capital of the world. This should have pushed us further to improve on what actually works for the industry, and towards the creation of the DICT.

Second, what is the point of placing the CICT / ICTO under the supervision of the DOST? Yes, ICT is a technology-driven industry, and R&D is crucial to its development. But does that justify adding an additional layer of bureaucracy in its operations? It should be the other way around. Given ICT’s importance to our economy (the IT-BPO sector revenue contributes roughly 5% of our GDP, and is predicted to reach 11% by 2020) and to our society (in terms of employment, connecting Filipino families etc) activities concerning its regulation should be made more efficient, and as less circuitous as possible.

Further, technology and R&D is but an aspect of ICT in the Philippines. ICT has a pervasive influence in our society that goes beyond improving our global competitiveness. It is, for instance, related to crime (cybercrimes) and national security (ICT used in transnational crimes and terrorism).

Lastly, the move to “rename” and “reorganize” the CICT impedes current reform measures being undertaken to fill up the shortcomings of our laws in addressing ICT-related problems and issues. Pending cybercrime bills in Congress, for instance, propose the creation of a National Cyber Security Office, which will be under the CICT. The Office will assist in suppressing the real-time commission of cybercrime offenses through a computer emergency response team (CERT) and carry out all other matters related to cybercrime prevention and suppression. Will this office be placed under the ICTO, the DOST, or the DOTC? The same question applies to the implementation of another ICT-related bill, the Data Privacy Bill.

With the increasing influence of ICT in Philippine development, it’s only logical that government should respond with an effective, efficient and accessible regulation mechanism. With the current reorganization of the CICT, effecting a strategic direction and coherence in our ICT policy has become unlikely.
-- Ma. Alexandria Ixara Maroto, third post

1 comment:

Regine Tenorio said...

IA. Granted that the reorganization is aimed at 'institutionalizing' the ICTO, what use have we for institutionalization when it is that exact reason why government offices are inefficient and incapacitated to perform their functions. Is the DOST capable of overseeing the ICTO's goals?