With the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT), the Philippine government finally acknowledges this new and fast-spreading field of technology in the delivery of services to the people.
President Aquino last week signed Republic Act 10844, the DICT Act of 2015, establishing the new department as the primary policy, planning, coordinating, and implementing entity in the government that will promote the national ICT development agenda.
All offices in this field now with the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) will be placed under the new department. The DOTC, to be renamed Department of Transportation, will now deal exclusively with transportation which is, in itself, an area of great importance in our growing economy.
Information and communication technology today pervades the national life so comprehensively that there is hardly any field where it does not have a key role. It is in business and industry, in education, in government services, in political affairs, in traditional mass media, in the new social media.
ICT has become the Philippines’ third biggest dollar earner, after electronics and Overseas Filipino Workers’ remittances. Filipinos are now among the world’s leading digital citizens. We number 105 million, but there are 115 million cellphone subscriptions. Four in ten have access to the Internet.
But the slow Internet service provided by telecommunication firms has long been deplored by our netizens. The Philippines ranks 176th in this field among 200 countries in one study. In the whole of Asia, only Afghanistan has a slower Internet service than the Philippines.
This could be the top issue that the DICT will face as soon as it is organized. The two dominant telecommunications firms now serving the country have met with members of President-elect Duterte’s economic team and submitted a list of things to do and infrastructures to put in place to improve Internet services.
The DICT has a great big world of responsibility and concern, including protecting the country’s financial system, preventing the breaching of databases such as those of the Commission on Elections, and other cybercrimes. It will now take the lead in encouraging the growth of the ICT industry through local and international partnerships, promoting investment opportunities, and ensuring that the country will have the best Internet service possible for the Filipino people.