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Donnerstag, 22.10.2020
eGovernment Forschung seit 2001 | eGovernment Research since 2001

Last July 13, the DICT released a press statement announcing that it was seeking P44.6 billion to fund programs for the country’s digital transformation. Of the P44.6 billion, P22.1 billion will be allotted to improve the country’s wi-fi and broadband infrastructures, and develop e-platform and online systems to support the e-governance initiatives of different departments. Another P11.7 billion will be allocated for its digital government initiatives and P10.2 billion for digital workforce and digital education.

As someone who has long been advocating for government to give top priority to our digital economy readiness, I was elated that the government is finally taking seriously its digital transformation plan judging from the dramatic increase in the proposed budget allocation for 2021.

But my hope was short-lived. In the final budget proposal submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), DICT was only allocated a total budget of P11 billion, about the same as this year, and certainly a big comedown from its original proposal. DICT is being given about P6 billion to be allocated as follows: free internet Wi-Fi access connectivity in public places (P2.4 billion); the National Government Data Center (P2.1 billion); the National Broadband Plan (P903 million) and the national government portal (P197 million). The other big ticket item in DICT’s budget is the P1.03 billion for cybersecurity.

Of DICT’s request of P22 billion for digital government and digital education and workforce program, only P2.5 billion was approved. Does this indicate that the budget planners also thought DICT’s proposal was overstated? However, to me the most important issue is – if not DICT, then which government agency will deliver these two requisites of a digital economy?

I do not know what accounts for the drastic reduction from DICT’s budget submission to the consolidated DBM budget proposal sent to Congress. Were the DICT estimates overstated, or simply not considered a priority at this time? I don’t have the answer to that. But if you compare that allocation with Singapore’s budget for ICT development for 2021 of P121 billion (SG$3.5 billion) for a population of less than six million people, even the DICT’s original proposal does not seem outlandish.

By this measure, President Duterte’s budget message that the government has allocated P21.4 billion for programs for the government’s overall digital transformation in 2021, while welcome, is not enough to make significant progress towards this objective. Of this amount, only P7.6 billion has been set aside to fund the ICT requirements for telecommunications infrastructure to aid in the shift to e-governance. Another P9.4 billion will be used to support the government’s daily ICT expenses, including the maintenance of computers and data centers, replacement of outdated desktops, and internet subscriptions, and payment for license subscriptions. The rest are to fund the digital government programs of the BIR, local governments, the Supreme Court, DOH, DOJ and other agencies.

Plans require implementation

The DICT has been for the last couple of years rolling out plans to achieve the country’s digital transformation. The plans tick all the boxes: National Broadband Plan, National Digital Transformation Plan, National Cybersecurity Plan, etc. It is obvious that the department has been consulting – even outsourcing these plans – of which I have no objection to and would encourage. But it is one thing to roll out plans and another to actually implement them.

I think the problem is this. The digital economy permeates all aspects of our existence: governance, education, labor, health, commerce and industry, and agriculture among others, requiring a whole-of-government approach to successfully transition from our analog world. As a line department with co-equal status as other line departments, DICT does not have the clout to implement this holistic approach despite the impressive plans that it has churned out. It has instead been given a specific role: to build an information highway for the unserved population, act as central data manager and as platform operator. There is no comprehensive plan which the whole-of-government has bought into, and therefore committed to implementing, including giving it funding priority. Up to this stage there is no focal point agency.

Singapore model

One possible approach is that of Singapore, which set up the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO), under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). It has been tasked to plan, prioritize and drive the digital transformation of society and government, build long-term capabilities for the public sector, and promote adoption and participation from the public and industry, through “a whole-of-nation effort that will actively engage the public, the industry and other government agencies” to build a smart nation together.

SNDGO is overseen by a ministerial committee chaired by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is second in precedence to the Prime Minister. The various ministries implement their role in the digital transformation blueprint that is coordinated by SNDGO.

This approach has proven effective and this is why I have advocated an interagency and multi-stakeholder commission – the private sector and civil society included – to implement our digital transformation blueprint. This would include overseeing: development of digital infrastructure, e-business; e-government and human resource and the legal and regulatory framework.

Multi-stakeholder commission

I share the view of many that the Department of Finance, as the chair of the economic cluster, should be in charge of the multi-stakeholder commission with the DICT as the secretariat. But this will not succeed without President Duterte leading the digital transformation of our country as it will require a whole-of-government approach – with strong collaboration from the private sector. His budget message on digital transformation, where he acknowledged its importance post-COVID 19, is a good start.

The President has two individuals who could support him in the two houses of Congress. Sen. Bong Go has filed Senate Bill (SB1738), or the “E-Governance Act of 2020,” which mandates the government to “establish an integrated, interconnected and interoperable information- and resource-sharing and communications network spanning the entirety of the national and local governments; internal records management information system; information database; and digital portals for the delivery of public services.” Rep. Luis Villafuerte has filed a counterpart House Bill (HB1248). They are significant voices that give us hope that the government may finally get its act together.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Roberto R. Romulo

Quelle/Source: The Philippine Star, 11.09.2020

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