Since that fateful day in July when President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III thoughtlessly dissolved the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) and created a replacement agency called Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO), I have yet to hear a single significant project or policy pronouncement from the country's supposed main ICT body.
Unlike the CICT which had a Cabinet-level classification and attached to the Office of the President, the ICTO is a mere unit under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Thus, while the CICT chief held the title of a department secretary, the ICTO head only holds the rank of an under-secretary.
But whether the ICTO has a Cabinet-level rank or not is immaterial as long as it has the appropriate powers and strategy to develop the country's ICT industry. The problem is that it does not have any of these.
In late-August, I had the opportunity to conduct the first media interview with the ICTO executive-director, Napoleon Casambre. I went to his office at the former CICT building in Quezon City without any appointment on that same day that he was scheduled to take his oath before DOST secretary Mario Montejo. Luckily, he granted the interview over lunch, with Montejo looking over his shoulders.
Casambre, a protege of Montejo and fellow engineering graduate of the University of the Philippines, rattled off a number of plans for the agency. I did write a story on that, but somehow I can't remember a thing about the interview as I write this blog entry. Perhaps I've heard those promises before so nothing stuck in my mind.
The only other time that I would see him again was at the Senate gallery when Sen. Edgardo Angara delivered his sponsorship speech for a proposed law creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). I was initially puzzled as to why he was there because the DOST, in which the ICTO is attached, had earlier voiced its opposition to the DICT bill.
I would learn later from former CICT commissioner Monchito Ibrahim, who is now one of Casambre's deputies at the ICTO, that the DOST was no longer opposed to the formation of the DICT. It did not mean, however, that the science department was in favor of it.
This is perhaps the ICTO's most significant move yet--that is, removing itself as a stumbling block to the passage of the DICT bill. Truth be told, the ICTO does not have the stature--and apparently the competence--to shepherd the local ICT sector.
Whether he admits it or not, Pres. Aquino made a political move in scrapping the CICT because it was a creation of the previous administration, despite the fact the agency was doing well. The least that the ICTO can do now is to get out of the way in the creation of the DICT.
Meanwhile, the ICTO could perhaps look into the salary problems of the iSchool Project. The initiative, which was started and implemented mostly under the CICT, is set to wind up this December but its employees have not yet received their salaries for the last couple of months.