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No other country seems to have had its landscape changed by the introduction of the internet more than the Philippines. The country, in addition to having one of the most connected populations in the world, has also become one of the top competitors in the information technology and business process management (IT-BPM) industry. In fact, the Philippine IT-BPM industry has become so lucrative that it is believed to soon overtake OFW remittances as the top source of revenue in the country.
While most of the credit for this success can be placed on the versatile and English-proficient Filipino workforce, some of it must also be directed to the many agencies and organizations that helped layout the infrastructure for the local industry. One of those is the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), a branch of the government that has been working hard to have the country catch up to the rest of the world in terms of internet speed, reliability, and advancement.
The Department of Information and Communications Technology first began as the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), a preceding agency created on January 12, 2004 as a transitory measure in the creation of a department specifically focused on the development of ICT in the country.
The CICT was composed of agencies within the government that were tasked with handling computer technology as well as those whose main function has to deal with communication matters, namely the National Computer Center (NCC), the Telecommunications Office (TELOF), and the communications branch of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). To help with policy coordination, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and the Philippine Postal Corporation (Philpost) were involved with the CICT as well. The CICT would go on to endure various revamps and restructuring until it was formally organized and recognized as the DICT.
As a part of the government’s executive branch, the DICT is committed to providing every Filipino access to vital ICT infrastructures and services, while also ensuring the sustainable growth of ICT-enabled industries that can lead to the creation of more jobs. This is evident through campaigns that deal with providing free public Wi-Fi access as well as improved Philippine broadband internet download speeds and reliability.
The DICT is also focused on developing and supporting ICT-based industries in the many rural regions of the country, working with LGUs and other stakeholders in the planning and implementation of ICT infrastructure in these areas. Such an effort would make these underdeveloped areas a preferred location for BPO centers and other ICT industries.
Finally, the DICT is also mandated to address the growing threat of cybercrime in the Philippines. With the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC), it has already begun formulating strategies, initiatives, and frameworks to protect the nation’s critical and non-critical infostructures. Alongside this, the department is moving forward with the establishment of a national emergency response team in case of mass hacking and cyberattacks.
Achievements and Highlights
The DICT has been responsible for many moves to provide online connectivity to as much of the Philippines as possible. One of these is the widely-successful Free Public Wi-Fi project, a project set to provide free internet connectivity to the public by integrating Wi-Fi hotspots all over the country, especially in public places and facilities.
Today, thousands of public schools, parks/plazas, and government hospitals all over the country enjoy free Wi-Fi access along with hundreds of libraries, state universities, colleges and more. Public transportation hubs such as seaports, airports, and train stations have benefited from this plan as well, with the millions of passengers traveling through them every day able to connect through fast and reliable Wi-Fi at no cost.
Programs and Activities
Besides its ongoing campaigns to provide faster and more affordable internet access to the entire Philippines, the DICT also has the following programs currently taking place:
- Tech4ED. This project, which stands for Technology for Education, to gain Employment, train Entrepreneurs towards Economic Development, involves creating public facilities in rural and remote areas. Its aim is to provide access to ICT-enabled services and content to communities and economically struggling sectors of the population. These services include eEduSkills, which delivers e-Learning on demand to address the education divide, and eAssist, which focuses on providing learning and continuous skill development opportunities for digital inclusion and business-running.
- iGov. iGov is a massive undertaking that hopes to make all government ICT services connected and available through one single portal. This setup makes it more convenient for citizens to access government services, and it also harmonizes each service’s function with each other. Other government services that have yet to make the move to the digital realm are also being prepared to join this network. Once completed, iGov will serve 160 government agencies, thus allowing citizens to use whatever government services they need without ever leaving home.
In its celebration of its first anniversary in June 2017, the DICT unveiled the National Broadband Plan, a forward-looking strategy to provide faster internet download speeds to businesses, government agencies, and households. With this plan, the DICT hopes to not only help the Philippines catch up to the broadband speeds that its neighboring countries are enjoying, but also to further stimulate ICT-related industries, such as BPOs and software development firms.
It was also on May 2, 2017 that the DICT unveiled National Cybersecurity Plan 2022, as a response to the ever-growing incidence of cybercrime coming from domestic as well as international sources. This program is set to enact measures to protect critical and non-critical ICT infrastructures in the country, as well as also to help bring about a cybersecurity-educated society.
Finally, the DICT is part of the many government agencies that is contributing to the realization of Accelerate PH, the IT-BPM Roadmap to 2022. This roadmap aims to ensure that the Filipino workforce is future-ready and capable of leveraging the technological advancements of tomorrow. Some of the targets of Accelerate PH include the following:
- 8 million direct jobs
- 8 million direct and indirect IT-BPM employment
- 500,000 jobs outside the National Capital Region (NCR)
- USD 40 billion in total revenue
- 15% global IT-BPM share
With its ongoing programs and future plans, it is evident that the DICT is fully focused on bringing the Philippines to the level it needs in order to compete with its neighbors. This focus makes it ideal for investors and companies abroad to put their resources in the nation, especially now that it’s steadily working towards a faster and more interconnected future.