Senator Loren Legarda is pushing for the creation of a distinct department called Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). Why? Based on inquirer.net’s report, the said department is tasked to “set government policies (on ICT) and oversee government’s IT projects.”
Legarda implied that DICT reflects the Philippines’ keeping up with the digital age. “Any forward-looking Filipino would support this bill. Only those living in the Stone Age would likely be against it,” inquirer.net quoted her as saying.
I haven’t seen a copy of the bill she mentioned (anyone?) for me to give a more informed reaction. It has not yet been filed with any Senate Committee, so it may be a protocol that the public won’t have access to it yet.
But I can’t help but say my initial piece.
Yes, I’m living in the “Stone Age”, this age when government is composed of leaders that are mostly hard as stone, without any compunction for their misdeeds and without any concrete and lasting actions to the sorry state of the society. I’m living in a “Stone Age” because ICT has so been commercialized that super-profit-driven entities engage in politics to get what they want. The latest controversy that proves this is the NBN deal. In the end, ICT as it is utilized now has not addressed the digital divide.
Creating a separate agency just to craft policies and oversee IT projects is a misplaced move. It’s like paying Hercules a huge sum of money if he can mash a tomato. A separate agency means that it is going to last for decades and is as fat as any other agency. And that contradicts two principles associated to ICT: efficiency and effectiveness.
I still push for a relatively autonomous Commission (a bit like Commission on Human Rights and COMELEC), with its lean and mean structure and critical engagement with concerned sectors, including the civil society. The tasks of the Commission should be:
- Craft an ICT Roadmap for the Philippines in honest-to-goodness consultation with concerned stakeholders, including civil society;
- Engage the government to adopt the Roadmap, so long as it is embraced by a broad network of stakeholders, to come up with ICT policies and allot necessary funds for it to come to fruition;
- Study proposals on ICT and recommend ones in accordance with the Roadmap;
- Monitor and oversee government’s ICT projects;
- Related to #1, lead and coordinate the re-engineering of the ICT systems of all agencies, so that they are not only inter-operating efficiently but are also providing sound ICT-facilitated services to their respective target audiences or beneficiaries.
To help rid the Commission of politics–well relatively–it should be composed of people who truly represent the ICT profession with unquestionable track record in the industry and without any affiliation to commercial interests. There should be mechanisms that officially and regularly engage a gamut of ICT stakeholders in various respects, such as policy formulation and project monitoring and evaluation.
The Commission I am thinking of is not the Commission that was created in 2004. But we can learn a lot from the way the CICT operated since then, including the politics that defined its fate, which proves how shallow government’s treatment of ICT is.
But I’m not closing doors on Senator Loren. I’m still interested to see the proposed bill and reconsider my thoughts. Likewise, I agree with her that inputs from all parties concerned are very important. I’d better agitate my colleagues in Bukas to brace themselves for this very important engagement.