Time for a strong Philippine ICT authority

The Philippines prides itself as a prime IT destination where outsourced work and electronics manufacturing can be done efficiently at a very cheap price.But the country is in danger of putting all that into waste.

The Philippines prides itself as a prime IT destination where outsourced work and electronics manufacturing can be done efficiently at a very cheap price.

But the country is in danger of putting all that into waste. The reason? The central authority in charge of nurturing the local IT industry is going wayward.

The Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), is, no doubt, in shambles right now barely three years after it was created by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The objective then was for the CICT to serve as a "transitory body" until an actual Department of ICT (DICT) is formed by Congress through the passage of law.

You just only have to look at its current leadership to realize that the agency is going in a downward direction. It's been almost three weeks since President Arroyo announced in Cebu City that she has named a new CICT chair.

But here's the problem: the new guy, Ray Anthony Roxas Chua, hasn't been sworn into office or has simply refused to report for work. It simply puzzles me as to why the Chief Executive appointed a person whom, I think, doesn't want to be appointed.

I've covered the CICT since its inception in 2004 and I personally saw how its first chair, industry veteran Virgilio "Ver" Pena, tried his best to put things in order. But for some political reasons, as Ver would later admit, the vital agencies that were put under the CICT--particularly the powerful National Telecommunications Commission--were taken away one by one.

Frustrated, Ver eventually walked away. But, still concerned about the turn of affairs, he recommended that Ramon Sales--a colleague he was close to when they worked together at IBM--to take over his post. Sales did become his successor but he, too, eventually wilted and resigned without a trace.

And that, is the sad story of the CICT.

But, it can still be fixed. For instance, I think it would be better if the powers-that-be dissolve the CICT--it's a lame-duck agency, anyway--and concentrate their efforts on creating a proper DICT, one that's capable of driving and leading key initiatives for the Philippine IT industry.

With that, we can hopefully have a better ending to this story.

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