Interview: Rodolfo A Salalima

How can the Philippines work to accelerate digital inclusion, and what lCT-enabled technology would best serve this purpose?

RODOLFO A SALALIMA: With the increasing reliance on the internet for delivery of government services and day-to-day transactions and business operations, ICT for the Philippine population has strong market potential. There are also challenges related to setting up an ecosystem around an interconnected and interoperable electronic communications system that is responsive to the needs of a digital society. In response, the National Broadband Plan (NBP) puts a premium on the consideration of technological evolution and the evaluation of the most appropriate mix of broadband technologies, which is strategic in ensuring that internet traffic is non-discriminatory, enabling, and not subject to throttling. The NBP aims to harmonise policy frameworks and regulatory regimes to sustain an internet landscape conducive to innovation and development. Priority is given to the last-mile dimension, as advances in technology allow for lCT-enabled media that has a more extensive reach, higher capacity to connect and faster data rates. As such, DICT’s Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places Project, dubbed as “Pipol Konek!”, coupled with the utilisation of TV white space technologies, represents an alternative to commercial broadband deployment, and are poised to stimulate innovation by achieving economies of scale and scope.

How can ICT-enabled solutions aid the expansion of social services and government efficiency?

SALALIMA: In recent years the Philippines has consistently shown signs of enhanced economic development. Generally speaking, good economics are equated with good governance, which underscores the role of governance in achieving this enhanced growth.

At the onset of the digital age, with the proliferation of new technologies in all aspects of daily life, the demand for the government to deliver services in an environment that is open, transparent and efficient is definitely at its height. At a steady pace, the country has made considerable progress. The increasing ubiquity of network services presents opportunities for the government to provide an alternative means of public service delivery, potentially lowering costs while increasing reach and return.

The National Government Portal (NGP) – part of the Integrated Government Philippines, or iGovPhil, Project – uses the internet as an aid to provide a single window containing all online information, operational infrastructures and public services of the government. With the NGP Filipinos no longer need to be physically present when performing various government transactions and instead submit forms and applications online through a single portal and avail themselves of services offered by different national government agencies. Currently ranked 71st in the 2016 e-government development index, a significant improvement from its previous ranking of 95th in 2014, the DICT faces a challenge if it is to sustain this growth and be able to deliver information and services to citizens.

What amendments to the regulatory framework could encourage further ICT competitiveness?

SALALIMA: An open access policy should be adopted for backhaul and backbone facilities on a non-discriminatory basis and publicise prices in order to introduce effective competition in the broadband or telecoms market in the country. At the onset of convergence, it is timely to review and update the Public Telecommunications Act, which promotes and governs the development of telecoms and delivery of public communications services, to help it remove barriers to entry for new players. Stronger policy implementation on transparent utilisation of frequency spectrum should be made. This should help increase private investment and attract investors to keep the market competitive and dynamic, to the benefit of the Philippines’ citizens.