Facing the challenges of the cyber domain | Inquirer Opinion
Commentary

Facing the challenges of the cyber domain

/ 05:05 AM October 05, 2023

In his State of the Nation Address in July, President Marcos pushed for the complete implementation of digitalization efforts to provide better government service and to combat corruption. He expressed hope that this initiative would help boost the economy as it makes business transactions with the public and private sectors more effective and convenient. Citing its urgency, Mr. Marcos noted that “digitalization is the call of today, not of the future—but of the present. It is here. It is needed, and it is needed today.”

The trend is inevitable as most countries with the means to do so are embarking on their own journey in this area. As a nation with aspirations to achieve upper middle-income status by 2025, the Philippines cannot afford to be left behind. Needless to say, some advances have been made in previous years, especially in the private sector.

In 2013, digital payments comprised only 1 percent of transactions. By 2021, digital payments accounted for 30 percent. In terms of its contribution to the economy, the digital/internet economy in the country was valued at around $7.5 billion in 2020. It is expected to grow 30 percent annually, and possibly reach $28 billion by 2025. There should be no argument that this is the right direction to take and, likewise, be considered a priority.

However, while digital transformation promises significant benefits and valuable opportunities, it also comes with quite serious risks. Digital transactions, services, and operations are part of the cyber domain with a significant amount of its activities conducted online, where unscrupulous or malicious parties pose considerable security threats to individuals, organizations, and even countries. Therefore, in its pursuit of digitalization, the government must also ensure that it is prepared to protect and minimize the security risks and challenges that exist when conducting activities in the cyber domain.

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Fortunately, in response to this challenge, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) came up with a five-year National Cybersecurity Plan (NCSP) 2022. However, given rapid advances in technology, plans, and strategies need to be constantly evaluated and updated to keep up with current trends and developments in this field. As such, it’s good to know that DICT is in the process of coming up with the second iteration of its plan called NCSP 2023-2028 which it intends to release by the end of 2023.

At the moment, the agency is calling on all stakeholders, advocates, and concerned citizens to provide their inputs, comments, and suggestions on the draft NCSP 2023-2028. Browsing through the draft, which is accessible on the DICT website, one notes the plan’s multifaceted approach that recognizes the importance of a whole-of-nation effort and recognizes cybersecurity as being essential to economic growth.

Among the seven core principles of the plan is an emphasis on the value of public-private partnerships. I think this is crucial, as the experience of the private sector in dealing with cybercrimes will benefit government efforts to beef up its cybersecurity capabilities. Also, considering that a lot of critical infrastructure that is owned and operated by private companies are potential targets for cyber-attacks, the government will need to work closely and provide support to these companies to enhance their ability to deal with these threats. Overall, the NCSP 2023-2028 appears to hit the right notes and check all the relevant boxes in terms of laying out an effective and practical cybersecurity plan and road map.

This being an important component of the digital transformation that the President and his government have prioritized, the draft is bound to be approved once it has been finalized. After which, it all boils down to implementation. As we all know, having a good plan is one thing, but executing it properly to meet its objectives and goals is quite another. For the sake of our country, let’s hope all goes well with that, too.

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Moira G. Gallaga served three Philippine presidents as presidential protocol officer and was posted as a diplomat at the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles, and the Philippine Embassy in Washington.

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TAGS: DICT, Digitalization, Technology

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