Batapa-Sigue: Sona 4.0: Big push for digital PH

Batapa-Sigue: Sona 4.0: Big push for digital PH

THE marching orders delivered during the State of the Nation Address (Sona) by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to Congress this week were designed to propel the Philippines higher into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. With more than 8,000 words delivered in more than an hour, I extracted the words that resonated to everything I have publicly discussed as a digital advocate and in various capacities since I became a public servant in 2004. With this national vision and with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Ivan John Uy, a digital champion, we are on our way to greater heights.

The word “digital” was mentioned 10 times, Internet seven times, innovation and connectivity four times each, technology 11 times, and science three times, among other information and communications technology (ICT) related concepts. Here are the key points with the words I cited:

1. Ecozones will be fully supported to bring in strategic industries such as those engaged in high-tech manufacturing, health and medical care, and all emerging technologies. This is also seen to facilitate economic growth outside of Metro Manila.

2. Our tax system will be adjusted in order to catch up with the rapid developments of the digital economy, including the imposition of value-added tax on digital service providers. Tax compliance procedures will be simplified to promote ease of paying taxes.

3. Through information and communications technology, the Bureau of Customs will promote streamlined processes.

4. The call of the times is for the infusion of fresh and new blood in the agricultural sector. We need a new breed of farmers equipped with modern agricultural technology able to engage in sustained scientific farming that will not only increase farm yields, but also resilience in the face of climate change.

5. The creative industry likewise faces many challenges including workplace conditions, working hours, intellectual property rights, and the welfare of our beloved freelancers who were left vulnerable during the height of the pandemic. We require an institutionalized creative industry that will advance the interests of its stakeholders.

6. In the longer term, we are instituting a program of refresher courses and re-trainings for our teachers so they can stay abreast of the rapid growth in technology, especially in this post-pandemic world. Our children must always be equipped with the best that we can provide.

7. Children now need connectivity to the internet; they need devices to use; they need computers, educational tools so that they might participate fully in the digital community here and abroad.

8. We must do better in the international rankings especially when it comes to the so-called STEM subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. These skills and this knowledge are necessary for our young people to be able to compete in a highly technological and competitive world.

9. The raw talent is there in our young people. It is up to our educational system to develop and to refine that great pool of talent. Foreign employers have always favored Filipino employees because of our command of the English language. This is an advantage that we must continue to enjoy. The Internet has now become the global marketplace. Not only for goods services but also for ideas, even extending to our own personal interactions. The language of the Internet – for better or for worse -- is English. Therefore, the question of our medium of instruction must be continuously re-examined to maintain that advantage that we have established as an English-speaking people.

10. We are entering an age of exponential adoption of technology. It is the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This will be characterized by the infusion of technology into almost every facet of our daily lives. Breakthrough technologies in the areas of quantum computing, artificial intelligence, nano technologies, the internet of things, robotics, self-driving electric vehicles, 3D printing, Virtual and Augmented Reality, among others that will radically transform the way business is done. The scale and the speed at which these innovations are introduced universally into our everyday lives and activities is unprecedented in our recorded history. We cannot stand idly by.

11. The mission of our DICT is to identify and utilize these innovations to improve governance. It has the daunting task now of transforming our government into an agile bureaucracy that is responsive to the needs of the public, provide good and solid data to ensure informed decision-making, as well as allow secure and seamless access to public services.

12. The voluminous records stored in the government warehouses and archives have to be digitized. Those that are already stored in various inventories of data should be harmonized and shared across departments and agencies. Needless to say, these have to be kept in large data centers that are secure yet accessible.

13. The National ID will play an important part in this digital transformation. For citizens to be able to seamlessly transact with the government, their identity must be easily verifiable. We expect to issue 30-million physical IDs and 20-million digital IDs by the end of this year. The target is to accomplish the issuance of about 92-million IDs by the middle of next year.

14. As the world moves into rapid digitalization, the digital divide will become more pronounced. The depth and breadth at which these technologies will be transformative in our lives is fully expected. This will open new opportunities for the creation of wealth but will also likely create inequalities. Hence, universal connectivity will be a vital component in order to ensure that no citizen is left behind. I have therefore tasked the DICT to deploy digital connectivity across our various islands. This will be done through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, the common tower program, connecting our Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (Gida) via our "Broadband ng Masa" project.

15. All relevant modes of digital transport should be utilized. These may be through a combination of terrestrial or submarine fiber optics, wireless and even satellite technology.

16. As our Public Service Act has opened the doors and removed the restrictions on foreign investment, we foresee an increase in direct investment of overseas players. This will translate into better quality, availability and affordability of telecommunications services all over the country. Public Private Partnerships or PPPs hold great potential for that expansion, for infrastructure development and for innovation.

17. Geographically, we are a disaster-prone country. Capacity building for our natural disaster resiliency is therefore a must. Investment in science and technology is imperative to enable us to have accurate weather forecasts and on-time disaster alerts.

18. E-Government Act which provides for the establishment of the E-Government Master Plan which shall cover all e-government services and processes.

19. Internet Transaction Act or E-Commerce Law which aims to establish an effective regulation of commercial activities through the internet or electronic means to ensure that consumer rights and data privacy are protected, innovation is encouraged, fair advertising practices and competition are promoted, online transactions are secured, intellectual property rights are protected, and product standards and safety are observed.


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