DICT: Is it really necessary for PH transformation?By Helen P. Macasaet
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The business and the ICT [information and communications technology] industry have been perplexed on why the creation of a DICT [Department of ICT] has not been in the top agenda of our present administration.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate approved the bill creating the DICT. But really, if it is not top on the list of Malacañang as a policy reform, then why is that so? There are many speculations and even rumors why this piece of legislation does not rank high in the uptake for reforms.
Today, August 6, from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Hotel Inter-Continental Manila, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) through the leadership of its ICT Committee Governor-in-Charge Donald Lim, vice president & managing director of McCann Worldgroup Phils, is conducting an ICT Forum with the theme: “DICT: Is it Really Necessary for Philippine Transformation?”
The panel of discussants will include Congressman Sigfrido R. Tinga, chair of the committee on ICT of the House of Representatives; Dr. Gregory Tangonan, executive director of the Congressional Commission on Science and Technology and Engineering; and Mr. John D. Forbes, vice chair of the MAP legislation committee and senior adviser of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Phils Inc. They will discuss why DICT is necessary or not for Philippine transformation. They will present their views on what actions have been taken as envisioned on this policy reform almost a decade ago. And now that both the House and the Senate have passed the creation of DICT, what remains as challenges if and when it is implemented.
The panel of reactors will include Secretary Mario G. Montejo of the Department Of Science and Technology (DOST); Karen Batungbacal de Venecia, co-founder and senior adviser of Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP); Guillermo M. Luz, co-chair of the National Competitiveness Council (NCC); and this author. They are expected to create a lively reaction to what have been presented or what have NOT been said by the panel of discussants.
In meetings I attended and in various conversations, what I hear from the discussions on DICT are simply quite revealing. Here are some of them:
1.) Some government officials say “we are already doing a lot of ICT in our respective departments and we know what to do. So there really is no need for another department which can just add unnecessarily to the expenses of the government machinery.”
2.) “The current structure of ICTO under the DoST will perform the DICT functions and that’s why its creation has been prioritized by the P-Noy administration when it abolished the CICT under the Office of the President.”
3.) “We are already doing great in ICT with so much job generation from the Business Process Outsourcing industry! So why bother with a DICT?”
4.) “We are a staunch advocate of the DICT but we have to abide by decisions made already by our President. He has already formed the ICTO and we cannot show any semblance of resent or dissent.”
5.) “There are political tones to the DICT creation. There are Cabinet members who do not see eye to eye on several matters and the ICTO will neutralize those people in the Cabinet. What happens is if a DICT is created, it can land on a Cabinet secretary who is presently already so influential with the President. What with another department in his influence?”
6.) “No amount of ICT can eliminate corruption. What we need is just the right leadership and taking out all the corrupt officials and not voting for them again! There are still quite a number of those corrupt officials who just don’t like ICT because they cannot continue their old ways.”
7.) “Maybe we don’t need another department like a DICT. Maybe we just need to restructure our present ICT personnel and resources.”
8.) “This reform is long overdue. I believe we are held back by the NIH, or Not Invented Here, syndrome since this reform started at the time of GMA.”
9.) “Our government really needs to take drastic actions in this ICT area. So many automated systems just don’t work for decades in spite of a lot of money spent—BOC, etc. We seem to be spending a lot in government computerization. And we don’t account for those expenses like hardware, software, professional services, disaster recovery centers, etc. Can we not rationalize our ICT investments?”
10.) “We don’t have enough resources to spend in ICT, that’s why we cannot budget much for it. It is too expensive. And our people are not ready to do it. Some just don’t want to take it. There are other more important things to prioritize like food and electricity.”
11.) “We first need to restructure our GL accounts in government because there are no ICT account codes for us to be able to budget and track those items.”
12.) “I think we need help from those countries whose ICT organizations have already proven to be successful like Singapore. Maybe we should get advice from them on how we should structure our ICT department in the Philippines, instead of just creating a DICT right away.”
13.) “The ICT industry in the Philippines is so polarized; it is fragmented. There is no leadership that can rally behind a DICT creation and in that way get a strong voice to P-Noy for this much-needed reform.”
14.) “I know ICT can really help government but it is just not my cup of tea. It looks complicated so i want to leave it to the programmers and the technical people; not us who are in senior positions. We have other things to worry about.”
These voices can be heard from different people, mostly in government. What are they really saying with these conversations? If we can listen from the background, what do they want to say? What are we hearing?
Maybe we have not discussed the BILL in creating the DICT hard enough to get clarity on its intentions. Isn’t it for a government, which uses ICT to enable and empower our citizens, and allows us to obtain better and faster public services? Isn’t it for the government that serves the competitiveness of local industries and firms? Isn’t it about that government body, which effectively and efficiently coordinates national ICT programs among the hundreds of government entities, and which is equipped with strong and clearly defined powers and appropriate manpower and resources? Isn’t it that body that communicates with us how much we spend and budget on ICT and complete transparency with its constituents?
The creation of such empowered national body is seen as supported broadly by the private sector, which is keen to work closely with government to encourage ICT-related business and investments and enhance the competencies of the country’s workforce. The business community sees the ICT future as NOW as it pursues with government meaningful and regulatory reforms and continues to enhance the country’s information infrastructure.
Let us look at what’s so in the world around us; continuing to inspect what our country needs to adopt in a broader ecosystem so that our policymakers can shape and implement our national digitization agendas.
I look forward to see you all in this afternoon’s ICT Forum for a lively and healthy discussion.
(The author is vice chairman of the MAP ICT committee and president and CEO of the Pentathlon Systems Resources, Inc. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. For previous articles, visit www.map.org.ph.)
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