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Telecommunications and information technology ministers of Asean member-countries agreed to strengthen cooperation on strategic ICT programs during the recently concluded Telecommunications and Information Technology Ministers Meeting held in Mactan, Cebu.

Chaired by the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo, the two-day meetings were preceded by meetings with senior officials and regulators in charge of telecommunications and information technology in their respective countries to see to it that they were on track for implementing the Asean ICT Masterplan (AIM) targeted for completion in 2015.

Bridging the digital divide was a key concern during the meeting and is considered one of six pillars they need to address in building the foundation of the AIM.

Montejo said they all agreed that they needed to reach out to the unserved and underserved areas of their respective countries, noting that many applications of ICT can bring about productivity to sectors that might need it.


As an example, he cited real time weather updates that could help the agricultural sector improve farming management.

Montejo said the meeting also helped the respective countries learn and share information to benefit the whole of Asean, saying there is a great potential for improvement in productivity, leading to more savings if everyone can become competitive.

He pointed out applications like remote medical diagnosis being done in Singapore and smart identification cards which can be used in paying toll fees and in metro rail systems like in Singapore and Malaysia.

Undersecretary Luis Casambre, who heads the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) under the DOST, said such an ID is not to be confused with a national ID because it will be voluntary and will give the holder access to services. He said the country has started with one ID for the Housing Mutual Development Fund (Pagibig), Social Security Systems (SSS), Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth) and the National Statistics Office. He said that what could follow is the driver’s license, currently being issued separately by the Land Transportation Office.

Asked how connected the Philippines is, Casambre and Montejo said there is still a long way to go. Casambre said telecommunications companies in the country peg it at 98 percent coverage. However, he said this is only limited to city and municipal centers.

During the 2010 elections, they conducted a signal survey and found the country to be 60 percent connected. He said they will be conducting another survey in time for the May 2013 elections. “We hope this figure rises,” he told local reporters.

The DOST believes they have found a solution to the digital divide in TV white space.

Casambre even suggested it during the senior officials meeting, urging leaders to consider the emerging technology of dynamic allocation of spectrum.

Last-mile solution

In his speech during the opening session of the Asean Telsom (Telecommunications and IT Senior Officials Meeting) held two days before the official Telmin, Casambre said they see this as the “last-mile solution” they have been looking for.

“We do also see TV white space technologies as an opportunity to catalyze the growth of broadband infrastructure in our country, without massive government spending or tough regulations, by providing a means to bridge the financial chasm that is unavoidable with traditional technologies, and break the vicious cycle that for our marginalized threatens to make wider the digital divide,” he said.

Aside from bridging the digital divide, other pillars they need to address are in the development of infrastructure, human capital, economic transfer, people empowerment and engagement and in innovation.

At a press conference following the conclusion of the meetings last Friday, Montejo identified six initiatives they agreed on to strengthen cooperation on strategic ICT programs.

They agreed to create a task force on infrastructure to address connectivity and improve broadband infrastructure.

The holding of the Asean CIO forum will give chief information officers of government their first region-wide platform. They also hope to expand it to cover private sector CIOs.

The first Asean ICT Awards were held Thursday, awarding public and private ICT initiatives under five categories--public sector, private sector, digital content, corporate social responsibility and start-up company.

Some 73 entries were submitted and it took five months for a panel to come up with three finalists for each category.

Though none of the Philippine entries made it to the shortlist, Montejo said this is the first time the awards were held and is optimistic that with more awareness, more entries could be sent and increase the chances of being awarded.


They also held the first BIMP-EAGA ministers meeting, which is a cooperation between Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines called the East Asean Growth Area, and established a public-private partnership model for ICT projects in the region. They also agreed on holding capacity-building activities and training on cybersecurity, social media governance, ICT disaster mitigation, cloud computing, green ICT and other topics.

The ministers also had cooperation dialogues with their counterparts in China, Japan, South Korea and the Information Technology Union (ITU) during the two days.

Overall, organizers believe the meetings strengthened the partnerships and initiated strategic projects, provided a forum to discuss ICT issues, research cooperation on regulatory issues like interconnection, licensing, competition and universal service obligations and enhanced the regional solidarity of Asean.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Mia A. Aznar

Quelle/Source: Sun.Star, 18.11.2012

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