Milestones are as much about pausing to catch your breath and reflect, as they are about recording the distance travelled. For me one such milestone was reached last week when the former Commissioner of ICT in the Philippines passed away, at the age of 56.
Angelo Timoteo Diaz De Rivera, or ‘Big Tim’ as he was known to friends, was there at the beginning of FutureGov. He was one of a few senior Asian government officials whose opinions I canvassed while I wondered out loud if a public sector modernisation publication could be viable. Always the enthusiast, he said it was just what government officials needed, and that it was sure to be a success.
Before I picked up the phone to speak to him that first time, Tim seemed impossibly remote - a Presidential-appointee sitting atop a large bureaucracy, far removed from the everyday concerns of an entrepreneurially minded journalist like myself. By the time the conversation had finished, I had a lot of notes, a generous offer of future assistance, and a strong sense of camaraderie. It seemed that we were both fellow travellers on an exciting journey to give civil servants the tools they needed to serve citizens better.
In that conversation, Tim had spoken of his rising excitement at the creation of a Department of ICT in the Philippines. Sadly not every dream comes true, and he never got to see that happen. But during his tenure at CICT, from 2003 to 2010, he acted as a catalyst for the roll-out of ICT across the Philippines’ public sector, and became a much respected advocate for public sector ICT throughout the region.
After speaking with Tim for the first time, it became suddenly a lot easier to speak to government officials across the region. I’d learned that a touch of humility, and an interest in the successes of civil servants, can get a journalist a long way. After all, you civil servants do what you do because of your commitment to public service - and FutureGov has always sought to understand and celebrate this. But it was Big Tim who set me off in the right direction back in 2003.
Over the next ten years he was a regular fixture of the magazine, fielding questions, making introductions, being interviewed, and attending our events as both delegate and speaker. Somewhere along the way, we became friends. Which now makes it all the harder to accept that he won’t be joining us on the path ahead. So I go on record here to thank Tim one last time for picking up the phone in 2003, taking my call, and gently nudging me forward. It’s only been a week, but you’re greatly missed.
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