PH in an IT world
The signing into law of the creation of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) (Republic Act No. 10844) brought the Philippines into the international community of the future. In my lifetime we have moved from a mechanical, analog world to a digitized and all-encompassing electronic one. Zeroes and ones have replaced wavy lines. The swipe of a screen has replaced the twist of a knob. And the size of everything has shrunk, except TV sets that are approaching cinema size.
It’s a world changing so swiftly that what you bought last year is out of date in the next, or earlier. Does anyone remember VCRs? Even DVDs, introduced a scant 21 years ago, are now in their death throes as USBs bury them. USBs will go soon, too. There’ll be no hardware—all will be on a cloud. And next is nanotechnology, with atom-sized components.
It’s a revolution on the scale of, or even exceeding, the Industrial Revolution. And it certainly does so in the speed of change. I thank then President Benigno Aquino III for finally signing the DICT into law. I particularly thank then Senate President Frank Drilon and then Speaker Sonny Belmonte for shepherding it through.
DICT Secretary Rudy Salalima has been in senior ICT positions for the past 40 years; he knows well what to do. He can now take it forward, and is in fact doing so. His team consists of undersecretaries with relevant experience in IT and IT-enabled services. It promises to be a good team judging from their backgrounds.
The DICT’s role is twofold: to assist the private sector to develop, and to put in place a holistic system that puts all government services online. And what it has done in just five months is quite impressive.
The intent is to computerize all government services through a “national government portal” that will be a one-stop gateway to whatever you need from the government—with a maximum of three steps in two days.
A common platform has been established that is a repository of data and information that government agencies can access, share, validate and use to enhance their operations, efficiency and services.
A nationwide broadband is also planned, but how to do it is yet to be decided. The DICT chief said the government is exploring the possibility of putting up a national broadband infrastructure through a public-private partnership.
Free Wi-fi is being provided in many public places. Some 96 sites have been established. The intent is about 1,300 by yearend.
Then there’s what to do with the private sector. One could well say: Leave it alone. It’s done so well, why fiddle with it? Globally the outsourcing industry is growing at 5-7 percent annually. Here it’s been 19 percent annually since 2006, with some 1.2 million well-paying jobs created, 32 percent of them in the countryside. Some $22 billion was generated last year; they’ll overtake OFW remittances, maybe this year.
But call centers are not all there is. Even backroom operations (accounting, engineering, HR, etc.) aren’t all. Programming, software and gaming development and legal transcription are increasing areas of possibility for the Philippines. The government’s help is needed, by providing the necessary training for colleges to ensure that they are BPO-ready. The Department of Education wants a book for every child. Time to realize where we’re headed; time to change it to a laptop for every child. That laptop can access hundreds of books, not just an inadequate one.
The DICT will also help develop IT-BPM hubs in other areas by building more ICT infrastructure and putting in place the systems and supports needed to move IT up the value chain by development of people with higher skills to handle more complex services. And move into the more esoteric areas of IT in both software and hardware. I see the Philippines as having the potential to be an IT leader in the world if it does this.
Much done already, but Salalima has a lot more to do. A major plank yet to be put down is moving the Philippine IT sector into the more sophisticated areas of IT in software and hardware. Into where the world is heading, not just being good at where it is today.
E-mail: [email protected] Read my previous columns: www.wallacebusinessforum.com.
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