Last week, I received an email interview from the online editor of BusinessWorld, asking my opinions about the creation of a new agency, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). Right now, there is Commision on ICT (CICT) and some sectors want to make this a bigger bureaucracy, hence convert it into a DICT.
Here is the new report today. I was mentioned in the latter part of the story. I simply argued that we do not need a new bureaucracy. Many people think that when a problem comes, the solution is to create a new government bureaucracy, or to expand an existing one to a bigger bureaucracy.
Posted on 08:40 PM, July 12, 2010
BY MARICEL E. ESTAVILLO, Online Editor
New administration set to face old ICT concerns
DICT and cybercrime bills pending in Congress await action
Almost two weeks have passed since President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III held a press conference to name his Cabinet members.
When it comes to his pick for the country’s next information technology honcho, however, the new president has kept his silence.
“[The CICT is] below Cabinet. There is [still] a debate whether to transform it into a department. There is a pending measure in the legislature transforming it into a department level position,” Mr. Aquino said during the press briefing.
The Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) is a transition agency pending a resolution over the Senate Bill 2546, which seeks to create the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).
The CICT was formed in 2004 through an executive order of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Its creation brought together the National Computer Center of the Department of Science and Technology (DoST), the Telecommunications Office (TELOF) and the communications units of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC).
Despite the clamor for its enactment from the private sector, led by the foreign chambers and the top industry groups, and despite the fact that Mrs. Arroyo certified the bill as urgent, it was never passed at the Senate before the last Congress ended last February. The bill’s counterpart in the lower house was already approved in 2008.
In a briefing held at the Malacañang last week, CICT chairman Ray Anthony Roxas-Chua III said most of the employees of the agency would continue to work while awaiting for new directives from Mr. Aquino.
Two days before the presidential inauguration, two of the agency’s top officials, Mr. Chua and CICT commissioner and National Computer Center director-general Angelo Timoteo M. Diaz de Rivera said they were ready to return to the private sector should the president appoint new officials.
With even the CICT at a standstill, the industry can only wait to see whether the Aquino administration puts a conclusion on one of the local technology sector’s longest-running sagas.
In an interview, TELOF executive director Graciano Sitchon said that now is the best time to review the proposal for DICT creation. “There could be something wrong in the way the bill was packaged [which could explain] why it has not yet been passed,” Mr. Sitchon said.
Among others, he said the supposedly anomalous $329-million national broadband network deal (NBN) with China’s ZTE Corp. has made it difficult for the bill to be enacted with both the public and politicians wary about technology-related transactions.
The NBN proposal has its roots in the vision of linking government agencies nationwide through a network which the CICT was espousing in its nascent days.
There was also the lack of appreciation by the Congress on the vital role that the proposed department could play in improving the economy of the country, said Maricor M. Akol, IT practitioner and president of industry group IT Foundation of the Philippines (ITFP).
Proponents of the DICT have repeatedly argued that most developed and progressive countries have DICT counterparts.
Ms. Akol surmised that the bill failed to get the Senate’s attention because there were “too many lawyers and a lack of technocrats in Congress,” adding that the “inability of CICT to come out with more convincing and pressing arguments to an disinterested Congress” was also a factor.
Meanwhile, groups lobbying against the creation of the DICT stressed that even without the department, the industry has been able to grow.
To illustrate, the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, which started its ascent in 2000, has grown to become a $7.2-billion industry employing a total of 442,164 workers as of 2009, according to government data.
“The BPO sub-sector has developed despite having no DICT. I would even hazard that if there was a DICT bureaucracy, the BPO’s growth in the country may have been stunted,” said Bienvenido Oplas, Jr. in a separate interview. “A DICT is not a must, not a necessity for the industry.”
Mr. Oplas is the president of Minimal Government Thinkers, Inc., a group that proposes minimal government intervention in business.
“The government bureaucracy should shrink and be reduced, not expand. Each new bureaucracy that is created or expanded means new taxes and fees that need to be created or expanded. And each new bureaucracy means new politics from the executive to the legislative branches,” he added.
Ms. Akol countered this claim, saying that “while the private sector has grown despite the lack of a department, the existence of one could further help its growth through more aggressive policies.”
More than overseeing the business sector, she said the proposed DICT should be on top of the government’s use of technology, which is considered as the single biggest user of ICT.
“There must be an authority that not only comes out with ICT policies but must also be able to implement these policies at the most cost-efficient/effective means [such as] the sharing of facilities, databases and networks,” she said....
* See also: Business Bureaucracy 1: Avoiding government: Egyptian experience, March 12, 2007