Philippine group bats for government CIO

CIO Forum urges creation of new IT chief who will be responsible for coordinating IT policies and setting standards in the public sector.

MANILA--An organization comprising CIOs in various government agencies is pushing for the appointment or creation of a "government CIO" post, responsible for coordinating IT policies and setting standards in the public sector.

The CIO Forum (CIOF) and its affiliate, the CIO Forum Foundation (CIOFF), said in a press briefing Thursday that the new post could alter the way technology is viewed in the government by "bringing the ICT agenda to the government consciousness".

Daniel Pabellon, chairman of the CIOFF, said the designation of a government CIO would put greater focus on ICT as a mindset and strategy, rather than an ordinary automation tool.

"Right now, different agencies of the government are headed by various CIOs," explained Pabellon, the former head of MIS department at the National Economic Development Authority (Neda). "We want someone who will coordinate and replicate the ICT success of one department, [to be rolled out] across the whole bureaucracy to avoid unnecessary waste of resources."

Told that there is already a chairman of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), Pabellon said the CICT chief could serve in a concurrent capacity.

He noted that the responsibilities of the CICT head would be different from the government CIO as this role would be patterned after a CIO of an agency, but on wider scale.

Pabellon lamented the fact the Philippines had not advanced as quickly other markets in the region, despite being the first in Southeast Asia to put up a government computer agency the National Computer Center (NCC), in 1967--three years ahead of Singapore. "But, where are we now? We haven't used ICT as a catalyst for development," he said.

Maria Esperanza Espino, president of the CIOF, said the government CIO could help champion the message that technology is not merely a commodity but a "management function".

"We need somebody who would add teeth to the ICT policies and directions," said Espino, the CIO of freeport operator Subic Bay Development Authority.

"That person should be able to create a capacity-building agenda by executing it as a strategic direction and not in a single IT project. Otherwise, the government would be at the mercy of the technology vendors because its top CIO doesn't know how to implement its plans," she added.

If the post ever comes to fruition, Espino suggested that one of the functions the government CIO could take on is to work with the Civil Service Commission, to establish the standardization of skillsets among IT workers in the public sector.

IBM Philippines, which hosted the media briefing, said the government is the only entity capable of rectifying the way it uses technology. The tech giant has a program called "Smarter Planet", which seeks to utilize IT as a "viable strategy to solve societal problems".

The IBM subsidiary cited, as an example, a study done by the National Center for Transportation Studies at the University of the Philippines, which showed that 100 billion pesos (US$2.2 billion) worth of resources and opportunities are lost annually due to the country's traffic problem.

"If we could only have a more intelligent traffic management system, then we can avoid that massive amount of money," said Ike Torres, manager for public sector at IBM Philippines.

Melvin G. Calimag is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.

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