Cabaero: Separating transport and communications

THE Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) covers two heavyweight industries that splitting it could only be a move in the right direction.

What is now known as DOTC will soon become the Department of Transportation. A new cluster will be created and will be known as the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). With the far-reaching potentials and numerous challenges of the information superhighway, the Internet, and mobile communications, the creation of this separate government agency would be timely and apt.

President Benigno Aquino III signed Monday the law creating the DICT or Republic Act No. 10844. The department’s mandate is to “be the primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing and administrative entity of the executive branch of government.” The DICT will be headed by a department secretary who will have three undersecretaries and four assistant secretaries, most of them career officers.

Prior legislation related to ICT were the E-Commerce Act of 2000 that regulates electronic commerce and transactions, and the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 that provides penalties and the investigation procedures for crimes using computers, networks, the Internet, and other technology innovations.

The law creating the DICT covers not only the ICT sector like telecommunications companies and equipment manufacturers, but also those in the ICT-enabled services sector that includes call centers.

The ICT-enabled services sector covers “those engaged in providing services that require the intrinsic use of ICTs, including engineering or architectural design, informatics service providers, offshoring and outsourcing service providers such as call centers, back office processing, software development, medical or legal transcription, animation, game development, and other services...”

In creating the DICT, existing agencies would have to be abolished and their functions and personnel transferred to the new department. These agencies are the Information and Communications Technology Office, National Computer Center, National Computer Institute, Telecommunications Office, National Telecommunications Training Institute, and all DOTC units dealing with communications.

The new department would have regional presence with offices to be headed by a regional director. The regional office would implement laws, policies and plans of the department in the local area, and coordinate with other agencies and local government units.

The creation of the DICT is timely, but those to be placed in it would not have an easy job because the industry faces issues of poor network connections, hacking of government websites and the massive data leak of voters’ information in the weeks leading the elections held last May 9.

The law is a positive move toward professionalizing the industry and protecting ICT consumers, but there is always the danger of imposing regulations to the detriment of sectors already helping prop up the economy, like call centers. Implementation should strive for a balance between protection and encouraging an atmosphere of confidence and growth.

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