Cabaero: DICT under the spotlight

EVEN before the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) was set up, there were doubts this new sector of the bureaucracy could address the country’s electronic information needs.

A little over a year after it was created, the DICT comes under the spotlight with the resignation of Secretary Rodolfo A. Salalima. In his letter to President Rodrigo Duterte last week, Salalima cited personal and world-related reasons.

But in his talk before DICT employees last Friday, he said he decided to leave because of “corruption and interference.” Following that statement, Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Salalima should substantiate his claims of corruption.

The DICT has been in the news for its public hearings, the free public wifi on Edsa, and the single government portal. What other projects did it have to open it to possible interference?

After Republic Act 10844, the law creating the DICT, was passed, some in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector aired reservations over the wisdom of having the DICT.

The Information and Communications Technology-Davao Inc. said in a SunStar Davao article on May 26, 2016 that the DICT would just be “a new bureaucracy” when the industry’s main challenges are speed and the cost of broadband services and the solution should be a change in policy. The group asked then President-elect Duterte to put on hold the setting up of the new department because it will only be a “humongous bureaucracy” and it will “invade the mandates of other government agencies.”

The DICT creation pushed through when President Duterte named lawyer Salalima, a former schoolmate and official of Globe Telecom, as DICT secretary.

I was one of those who turned hopeful with the creation of the DICT as the electronic information and communications needs of Filipinos are becoming more complex and widespread. The matter of communications fell under the old Department of Transportation and Communications. I knew it as a wise move to separate transportation and communications.

I wrote in May last year how, with the far-reaching potential and numerous challenges of the information superhighway, the internet, and mobile communications, the creation of this separate government agency was timely and apt. The department’s mandate is to be the primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing and administrative entity of the executive branch of government that will plan, develop, and promote the national ICT development agenda. The DICT law covers not only the ICT sector like telecommunications companies and equipment manufacturers, but also those in the ICT-enabled services sector that includes business process outsourcing and call centers.

The DICT is too important an office to be swayed by corporate or political influence. The office has to remain independent of pressure inside or outside of government in order to protect ICT consumers and encourage growth in the sector.


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