THE Senate passed on third and final reading Monday a bill creating a new government agency which will focus on the development of the country’s growing information and communications technology (ICT) sector.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, sponsor of Senate Bill 2686 or the proposed Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Act, said the bill would promote digital literacy and ICT expertise across the country.

Recto said the proposed DICT would be the primary department in charge of developing, planning and promoting the government’s ICT agenda.

“Creating the DICT would link all government ICT resources and networks under an integrated and harmonized framework so that knowledge is transferred, resources are shared, databases are built and agency networks are linked together,” Recto, chairman of Senate committee on science and technology, said.

“Having an integrated government database would help improve services and expedite information requests to government offices and officials, such as applications for state-issued documents,” he added, noting that permits, licenses, and land titles would be electronically-applied for, processed, and issued once the bill is passed into law.

Further, Recto said the DICT would establish a free Internet service that ordinary Filipinos could access in government offices and public areas using the most cos-effective telecommunications technology.

The proposed agency would also be mandated to strengthen consumer protection policies to protect consumers against lousy service, and at the same time, ensure business users’ right to privacy.

The DICT will be tasked to encourage the growth of the ICT industry by promoting investment opportunities for ICT firms, as well as by creating local and international partnerships to speed up industry growth and competitiveness.

It will also collaborate with the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in mainstreaming ICT in schools and manpower development to ensure that the country’s human resources are competent.

Recto said the proposed agency would be created by merging ICT-related agencies under the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Transportation and Communications, namely the Information and Communications Technology Office, the National Computer Center, the National Computer Institute, the Telecommunications Office, and the National Telecommunications Training Institute.

Under the bill, the National Telecommunications Commission, the National Privacy Commission, and the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Center would be attached to the DICT for the coordination and implementation of the country’s cyber security policies and programs.

For Senate President Franklin Drilon, the proposed measure is part of the key economic reform legislation being pushed in the Senate “to help the country adapt to major development challenges like the Asean market integration.”

“The measure addresses the need for the Philippines to be at par with other Asean economies which have cabinet level departments for their ICT sector, especially with our flourishing business process outsourcing industry and digitally-savvy populace,” he said. (Sunnex)