A clarion call for a national ICT governance framework
By the time this article is published, the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) is already abolished. It was last June while I was meeting with some heads of business associations and foreign firms in the country when one of the attendees, an official from the Office of the President, disclosed that the CICT would be dissolved and that its functions would be distributed between the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) and the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC).
If you recall, the CICT was expected to be only a transitory measure, and that a national body would be formed that is not advisory in nature, and would perform an active role in the integration, coordination, and implementation of the ICT program of the government and immediately address the urgent need to harmonize and make the country’s approach to ICT development more coherent and efficient.
So what is REALLY happening in our ICT efforts and the resources we are spending? Where is the “BANG” with the BUCKS? Why have we not achieved the systems and resources as instruments for nation-building and global competitiveness?
There is much to be acted upon to achieve performance in many ICT areas. We acknowledge though the results of the aggressive assistance to Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) of the Ex-CICTs in the promotion of BPO. BPO is the fastest employment and revenue-generating economic sectors in the Philippines today. The potential of this industry remains strong as seen in growing outsourcing trends in North America and Europe. The Philippines employs more than 500,000 people in this sector and export revenues are close to $10 billion by 2016.
However, much remains to be seen in benefits to ICT use in government. Over almost half a century, we don’t have the figures on how we spend or invest in ICT both from our internal resources and grants of international agencies on a national, regional or local level. But where is the “BANG” with these BUCKS? Is our government instituting a systematic discipline in managing its computerization projects or its ICT portfolio across the bureaucracy?
In private companies, whenever there are strategic discussions on competitiveness, efficiencies and being more customer-centric, ICT takes center stage to contribute in major ways. In larger firms, for example, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) takes the lead. But in the Philippine government, it is more like Career Is Over (CIO). Do we have this CIO who is a Confidante of our CEO (the President)? Or do we limit his understanding to EXCEL and Word Processing?
The Philippines, among its Asian neighbors, is one of the early adaptors in ICT use in government since 1969. Unfortunately, it has been significantly overtaken by many countries since then.
Like many concepts in ICT leadership, it is not easy to define a universal truth about how to achieve good governance. What worked yesterday might not work today and what works for one country may not work for another. ICT governance depends on various dimensions: One view is organizational alignment which is a leadership structure that aligns ICT decision-making model to that of the organization; another dimension is that which involves the primary role of ICT.
The latter dimension leads us to the Philippine Government Information Systems Plan (GISP) crafted in 2000 and the 5-year Philippine Strategic Roadmap for the ICT sector (2006-2010). Today, what is our current situation in government ICT application architectures and technical environment? Are we in a costly ICT mess or is ICT a power weapon today in the government bureaucracy?
Have the plans led us to be empowered as a nation toward improved governance, a more competitive economy and improved living standard for the Filipinos? Or can we revisit our models for ICT success in the government bureaucracy? And can we look at new models in ICT solutions, given advances in diverse ICT platforms?
On the organizational dimension, we realize that for over 40 years now, there have been more than a dozen ICT bodies created in the Philippines, including the recently abolished CICT. What about the pending bill on the creation of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT)? Can the creation of a DICT more effectively coordinate and implement national ICT projects and other related initiatives? Shall the creation of DICT be a priority of government as endorsed by the private sector?
If our government’s existing ICT governance model is decentralized but ICT is believed to be a strategic enabler for the country, then DICT makes sense. However, if ICT will support more tactical initiatives, then a decentralized ICT governance model might be more effective and efficient.
If there is no absolute truth when it comes to ICT governance, what is most critical is the unavoidable challenge for our leaders in making a clear decision about which ones need change. Is it our leadership structure or do we really have a clear government ICT blueprint which we can act upon? And does the blueprint translate into drastic changes in government work processes?
We can rewrite our ICT future. We can implement and deploy holistic and integrated ICT in government offices. We can expect immense impact in improving the efficiency, cost-effectiveness and transparency in the delivery of services to improve the lives of the Filipinos. We can be excited about what ICT can achieve so that we can pull out the stops to get to the top of the list of global competitiveness. And yes, the right ICT can enhance public services and ensure zero corruption in government.
(The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines. The author is president and CEO of Pentathlon Systems Resources Inc. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. For previous articles, visit .)