Philippine ICT chief vows to implement e-reforms

Country's new head of Commission on ICT pledges to establish "good governance" through e-government initiatives across public sector, push outstanding ICT-related bills and drive local BPO sector.
Written by Melvin G. Calimag, Contributor

MANILA--In his first media interview since being named chair of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), Ivan John Uy said Tuesday that the new Aquino administration intends to achieve "good governance" by carrying out e-government initiatives across the entire bureaucracy.

Speaking at the sidelines of a medical transcription conference here, Uy said the CICT would tap tools to integrate the disparate IT systems of various government agencies so information and resources can be shared between the various departments.

The trained lawyer said the CICT, which is the country's main ICT policy-making body, plans to create a Web portal where a single document can be used to transact with public offices. The project, called e-Bayad (e-Payment), will serve as a single payment gateway for government agencies with frontline services and is scheduled to be launched by year-end, he said.

"As of now, the government is still made up of islands of information," Uy explained. "For instance, if you want to put up a business, you still have to go to different agencies. We want to eliminate that and make it easy for investors to start a business here."

He noted that his 15-year stint as CIO of the country's Supreme Court and his previous role as president of the CIO Forum Foundation have given him a good overview of the problems that need to be addressed within the government sector.

As the first lawyer to head the CICT since its inception, Uy is also expected to tackle a host of legal issues currently confronting the IT sector.

"We need to set clear-cut policies on data protection and formulate appropriate standards on electronic evidence which we can recommend for the courts to adopt," said Uy, a former lecturer of IT subjects at the University of the Philippines College of Law.

He highlighted his support for IT-related bills currently pending in Congress, including proposed laws on cybercrime, data privacy and the Department of ICT (DICT).

As the second-largest contributor to the local economy after the OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) sector, the IT industry deserves to have its own department, he said.

Uy's position on this issue appears to go against the person who appointed him, President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, who said during the election campaign that he is not inclined to support the creation of a DICT.

Uy, however, noted that by appointing him to the CICT, Aquino has at least acknowledged the need to have a dedicated agency to address IT concerns.

He refused to share the circumstances that led to his appointment, which came as a surprise to many as he was not among names initially considered for the post.

Driving local BPO, e-commerce
Touching on the BPO (business process outsourcing) sector, which is a key segment for the local industry, Uy said the CICT intends to help various IT organizations market the Philippines in untapped markets such as Europe and some parts of the United States.

"For us to maintain our competitiveness, we need to build up our human capital," he said, adding that the government should bridge the digital divide between urban and rural communities to generate jobs and pave the way for reverse migration.

He noted that he intends to work with local telcos to put up vital infrastructure in the countryside to spur development and reduce inequity. Local ICT regulatory body, the National Telecommunications Commission, is an attached agency of the CICT.

As gatekeeper of the e-government fund, which is worth 1 billion peso (US$22.2 million) and available to government agencies, Uy said he is also working to protect the budget from being reduced by cost-cutting measures currently undertaken by the new administration.

"The Department of Budget and Management is putting away all the fats in the country's expenditure but I don't think the e-government fund is a fat," he said.

Elaborating on vacant positions at the CICT, he noted that Aquino has to first evaluate the accomplishments of the agency before new appointments for commissioners can be made.

Current commissioners, Monchito Ibrahim and Frank Perez, are operating under interim capacity until October. Two other commissioners, Tim Diaz de Rivera, who is director-general of the National Computer Center, and Consuelo Perez, tendered their resignations last June, Uy said.

He said the CICT is currently drafting a new ICT roadmap for the country. "We hope to put it out before the end of the year," he revealed.

Uy added that he intends to implement radical reforms at PhilPost, the mail post agency under the CICT. "Our postal system should be reengineered to handle parcels borne out of e-commerce transactions.

"Snail mail is becoming passé. PhilPost should be able to handle businesses that have emerged because of the Internet," he said. "For instance, it should have Western Union-type remittance service. There is no reason why we can't implement this because PhilPost has branches in almost all towns in the country."

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

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