PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III signed into law Republic Act 10844, an Act Creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

The Cebu business community welcomed its creation, saying this will further improve the country’s competitiveness.

Under the law, the DICT will be headed by a secretary, who will be aided by three undersecretaries and four assistant secretaries, all to be appointed by the President.

Two of the three undersecretaries and two of the four assistant secretaries must be career officers and one of the four assistant secretaries must also be a licensed professional electronics engineer.

The secretary, undersecretaries and assistant secretaries must have at least seven years of competence and expertise in information and communications technology; information technology service management; information security management; cybersecurity, data privacy, e-commerce, or human capital development in the ICT.

According to the new law, the following agencies are abolished and will be transferred to the newly created DICT: Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO); National Computer Center (NCC); National Computer Institute (NCI); Telecommunications Office (TELOF); National Telecommunications Training Institute (NTTI); and, all operating units of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) with functions and responsibilities dealing with communications.

As a result of the creation of the new department, the law also stated that the present DOTC will be renamed the Department of Transportation.

The law provides for a six-month transition period from effectivity for the full implementation of the transfer of functions, assets and personnel.

RA 10844 states, “the existing personnel shall continue to assume their posts in holdover capacities until new appointments are issued.”

The new Act was passed by the House of Representatives as House Bill 6198 on Oct. 9, 2015 and adopted by the Senate as an amendment to Senate Bill 2686 on Dec. 15, 2015.

“We are very much elated to find out the bill has been signed into law...This has been eagerly awaited by the business community, considering that the use of information and communications technology (ICT) improves the competitiveness of our country in terms of efficiency, productivity and speed,” said Melanie Ng, president of Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Ng said the creation of the department “sees to it that there will be appropriate and meaningful policies and regulations to ensure that there will be enhancements and improvement in our ICT infrastructure to aid our economic growth.”

CCCI earlier said the creation of the DICT would improve Cebu’s competitiveness in the fields of tourism, entrepreneurship, and ICT-BPO, whose employee headcount is now approaching 120,000.

“The creation of an office focused on DICT is a hope that it will facilitate knowledge management and ease the flow of communications, not only in government, but in the community as well.

"The business community looks forward to the use of digital technology and to a facilitative organization that will lower the cost of business transactions and make us more competitive,” said Christian Paro-an chair of the 2016 Cebu Business Month (CBM) of the CCCI. CBM’s month-long celebration next month is anchored on the theme Digital Cebu.

The DICT is envisioned to support the development of the ICT systems of the country.

It hopes to address issues on Internet connectivity and ensure stable communications services, aside from designing, implementing and ensuring the protection of an integrated government information and communications infrastructure system. Likewise to take the lead on cybersecurity and formulate a strong protection and enforcement framework against cybercrime.

Wilfredo “Jun” Sa-a, executive director of Cebu Educational Development Foundation for Information Technology (Cedf-IT) said the creation of the DICT would propel inclusive development in areas outside Manila such as Cebu and other next wave cities, especially in the field of IT-business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) industry.

“We look forward to the support of the incoming administration so that the country can better plan for the infrastructure and implementation of projects to reinforce our lead in the digital economy,” said Sa-a.

Cebu Business Club president Gordon Alan Joseph hopes the DICT will be staffed by competent industry experts and not political appointees whose terms will end with the presidents.

“Given the importance of the IT industry in the Philippines, this bill has long been overdue,” said Joseph.

Prior to the signing of the law, the Philippine Business Groups and Joint Foreign Chambers (PBG-JFC) have pressed President Aquino to sign the bill before he steps down on June 30.

The business groups said the passage would boost the Philippines’ position as a “world leader” in the ICT sector.

Telco provider Globe Telecom days ago also pressed for the creation of the DICT, saying this would help elevate local state of Internet and usher in the country to become a digital economy.

“The Philippines is in urgent need of an agency that will drive the country’s ICT development and help steer the country to realize its full potential as a digital economy where homes, businesses and individuals have access to fast and reliable data connectivity. We are hopeful that enhancing ICT development in the country, by creating DICT, would enable more business organizations to work more efficiently, maximize productivity and contribute to sustaining the country’s economic growth,” said Globe Telecom general counsel Froilan Castelo said in a statement. With Sunnex