A week after a bill to create a fully-fledged Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) in the Philippines was thrown out by Congress, the future of the current agency responsible for IT hangs in the balance. As President Gloria Arroyo’s administration makes way ahead of elections in May, the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) – which was set up as a transitory body pending the formation of a DICT in 2004 - could be sidelined or abolished altogether by the incoming government.
A frustrated CICT Chairman Ray Roxas-Chua, who spent a week-and-a-half lobbying for the bill at the Senate hall, told FutureGov that the bill’s recent session in Congress may have been the Philippines’ “best chance” yet to create a DICT, as none of the political candidates have championed ICT as a force for government modernisation in their election campaigns.
“While the line-up includes many good candidates, none of them have really included ICT in their campaign platforms,” he said. “I hate to say it, but this may have been our best chance [for the creation of a DICT]. We had a President that fully supported it and an industry that clamoured for it. If public clamour cannot convince our senators to set aside politics and pass important bills, then I don’t know what can.”
A proposed law on cyber crime also fell off the legislative agenda. Both bills had been certified as ‘urgent’, but were usurped by a corruption scandal over a road diversion project which took over the Senate floor.
Roxas-Chua said that while the government had made “great strides” in using ICT to improve government services, there was still “so much work to do. We really need a stronger agency to ensure government ICT initiatives are consistent with an overall framework. I sincerely hope the next Congress will prioritise ICT, so the Filipino people can finally reap its full benefits.”
The CICT has until June to do as much as it can to fulfill its four strategic objectives: support the ICT sector, push for e-governance, develop ICT skills and promote universal access to ICT.
Last year, the CICT received a Government Technology Award (now known as the FutureGov Awards) in one of the event’s most competitive categories – Digital Inclusion – for iSchools, a project to give public high school teachers basic ICT skills for use in teaching, learning and public administration.
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