The ICT sector is set to benefit from the establishment of a new, dedicated department to guide its development, after the previous administration moved to split the functions of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DTC) in 2016. Creation of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) had been in the works since 2012.
The Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), set up during the tenure of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was the precursor to the DICT, and tasked with developing the ICT strategy and policies. However, in June 2011 former President Benigno Aquino III dissolved the CICT through Executive Order 47, which restructured and reorganised the commission into the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO), operating under the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The National Computer Centre (NCC) and Telecommunications Office (TO) were also moved under the umbrella of the ICTO and DST, with the department ordered to prepare a development strategy for ICT research and development, including links to industry and plans for e-governance infrastructure.
At the time, Damian Mapa, former CICT commissioner, told local media that the commission’s restructuring under the DST represented a step towards becoming a standalone department, and argued it should pave the way for the creation of a Cabinet-level department.
In 2012 the Senate approved a bill which would create an ICT department, which was also approved by the House of Representatives. However, former President Aquino opposed the creation of a standalone department, with the DST supporting his position until 2014, when the need for a dedicated line department overseeing the segment became more pressing. In July 2015 the Senate approved a new measure, which benefitted from the support of the DST. Former President Aquino dropped his opposition to the move and signed the bill into law in May 2016, splitting the DTC’s functions into two departments: the Department of Transportation and the DICT.
The DICT Act gives the new department the mandate to act as the primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing and administrative entity for the ICT sector. The department’s mandate extends to the development and promotion of a national ICT agenda, which could include the establishment of free internet access for government offices and public areas, using ICT for disaster risk reduction through timely dissemination of vital information, and protecting consumer and business rights, particularly in the areas of privacy and security. The DICT will also absorb a host of related agencies including ICTO, NCC, the National Computer Institute, TO and the National Telecommunications Training Institute.
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), National Privacy Commission and Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Centre will now work in coordination with the department as policy and programme coordination agencies. The DITC will also collaborate with the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to expand ICT use in schools.
The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, which took office in June 2016, is also supportive of the department, and is already pushing it to expand broadband access. In July 2016 President Duterte called on the DICT to develop a national broadband plan emphasising accelerated deployment of fibre-optic and wireless technologies. During his state of the national address, President Duterte also promised to deliver free Wi-Fi internet access in schools, parks, hospitals, airports and other transportation hubs. The plan will allow for the development of universal high-speed internet, and the department plans to collaborate with multiple stakeholders in its implementation to ensure affordability and improved connectivity.
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