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Digitizing the Philippines

The Wallace Business Forum recently held a roundtable for its clients with DICT Secretary Gregorio Honasan II. I thought you’d find of interest what the DICT is up to given that IT is the future of the world.

The World Bank has produced a report on the digitalization of the Philippine economy based on a conceptual framework called CHIP (Connect, Harness, Innovate, and Protect). The DICT is using this as the base for the development of its programs. The report has medium- and long-term programs to accelerate digital transformation and strengthen the Philippines’ digital economy as we move into the new normal.

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Under the CONNECT thrust of CHIP, the DICT will prioritize building the national ICT infrastructure needed to support the digitalization of government, industries, and communities. This will cover several major connectivity initiatives: a National Broadband Program aimed at building a government-owned broadband network that will enable faster, more affordable, and more extensive internet connectivity throughout the country; and the deployment of fiber optic cables and wireless technology in partnership with the private sector and local government units (LGUs).

There is a Free Wi-Fi for All Program, which involves setting up free internet sites in public places nationwide. Already in progress is the Common Tower Policy where telecommunications towers are being built by the three telcos and independent builders, with all three telcos sharing a tower.

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Through the HARNESS thrust of CHIP, the DICT will invest in digital education and in providing more digital commerce and job opportunities for the Filipino workforce. This will include developing an ICT Academy that will identify young people in the government and train them in the skills needed to create a digitally friendly bureaucracy that understands and utilizes the potential of ICT.

The DICT will also implement a program to teach Filipinos in the countryside about ICT and give them the skills to increase their employability. Part of that program is reskilling OFWs who returned home due to the pandemic. Also being put in place is a Digital Cities and Provinces Program that will strengthen the industry readiness of cities and provinces by creating ICT hubs in identified locations.

The INNOVATE thrust of CHIP highlights the need for the continuous modernization of government and business sectors for more efficient delivery of services, and for local government units to streamline their processes through online platforms.

For business, the Anti-Red Tape Authority has created a Central Business Portal (CBP) that will allow businesses to apply for all necessary permits and licenses from national government agencies online. Phase 1 of the CBP was launched last January. Phase 2, which will interconnect the different government agencies, will be developed in the coming months. The DICT is the lead agency in deploying an electronic business permits and licensing system (eBPLS)—a cloud-based software that will enable LGUs to process applications for new business permits and their renewal electronically.

Under the PROTECT Thrust, the DICT will improve cybersecurity to better protect the country’s critical information infrastructure (CII)—something the world is recognizing as a growing threat. It has formulated the National Cybersecurity Plan 2028 to monitor compliance with policies and regulations in the protection of CIIs. This is an area of growing concern, as hackers proliferate ever more rapidly. Also being undertaken is the conduct of vulnerability assessment and penetration testing for websites and network systems and agencies by the National Computer Emergency Response Team.

Pulling it all together will be a National Government Data Center Project that will establish secure government data centers in different areas of the country in partnership with LGUs.

Overall, the intent of the DICT is to IT-connect the national government to local governments, and to governments internationally, while also connecting government to citizens and to business to spur economic activity.

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Those of you who read my columns regularly know that I consider the DICT the most important department in government. We now live in a digital world where the distinction between virtual and real is blurred. It’s a hybrid world we now live in. ICT is ever more dominating our lives. Secretary Honasan recognizes this, but the DICT’s program is an ambitious one, so let’s hope he can achieve it.

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I don’t know whether to feel honored, or to sue the Inquirer editors, for stealing my byline for their editorial yesterday (“Tell it like it is”). Or just laugh.

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Email: [email protected]

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TAGS: computerization, Like It Is, Peter Wallace
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