Dindo Manhit, President of the Stratbase ADR Institute
In the recent Technology and Innovation Summit entitled, “Innovative Philippines: Transforming Barriers to Productivity, Transparency and Inclusive Growth,” organized by the Stratbase Group, thought leaders from government, and the information and communications technology (ICT) sector came together to discuss the challenges faced by the industry, as well as the policy directions and strategies to cope with and succeed in the changing landscape of the digital economy.
Department of Information Communication and Technology (DICT) Secretary Gregorio Honasan cited the need to adopt a strategically developmental and competitive approach in the expansion of ICT in the Philippines and veer away from the traditional mindset limited by short “political” timelines.
Mr. Honasan wants the government to adopt a policy direction that maximizes the benefits of available information, communications, and technology solutions to cut through paper-based, multi-layered bureaucracy that has unnecessarily burdened our people who are just trying to make a living.
The new leadership of Mr. Honasan promises to institute very strategic policy reforms that will be more compatible with the pace of technological innovations and immune to short political cycle disruption. The inclusive connectivity now being prioritized under his leadership will be a game changing achievement that will benefit all sectors of Philippine society.
This year, the Global Innovation Index puts the country’s performance at 54th out of the 129 countries. Yes, there is a significant jump in the global ranking. But the Philippines still lags behind other ASEAN neighbors such as Singapore (8th), Malaysia (35th), Vietnam (42nd), and Thailand (43rd).
With the growing number of users of the internet, mobile phones, and social media in the Philippines, there is a need to complement this phenomenon with a conducive policy and business environment that can optimize productivity and increase competitiveness.
The challenges and requirements of a growing and dynamic global digital economy are enormous. It entails strong political will and a paradigm shift to allow more private sector participation and higher investment to ensure faster, cheaper, and more secure connectivity.
We need to make every Filipino ready not just to cope with the challenges but also succeed in the 4th Industrial Revolution.
During the Summit, the stakeholders agree with the DICT’s position that a national broadband backbone is critical to our ICT transformation. It will deliver a fast internet connection to 104,000 access points all over the country. This is envisioned to give free Wi-Fi services to about 25 million users in un-served areas of the country.
We welcome the plan of the DICT to activate approximately 111 nodes using NGP’s spare fiber to cascade capacity to identified growth areas in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao as well as its plan to build at least 20 cable landing stations with more than a thousand kilometers of submarine cable laid out to bring in more links to the international gateway.
But as we embrace the digital world and growing inter-connectivity, we should also be equipped to protect our data privacy and counter possible cybersecurity threats.
Raymund Liboro, Commissioner and Chairman of the National Privacy Commission, cited the “hidden cost of interconnectivity,” where we leave a trail of personal information whenever we access any form of social media. Data power he said can be both helpful and harmful to everyone if not properly managed and secured.
We also welcome the report of Mr. Liboro that the Philippines is pushing for better digital governance, compliance, and leadership concerning the country’s chairmanship in the recent ASEAN data privacy forum.
We are hoping that the National Privacy Commission will be more technology equipped and trained to fully implement the Data Privacy Act. Through this, they can help address the proliferation of cyber threats and crimes amid the digitalization activities of more government and private agencies.
The abundance of human and talent resources in the Philippines presents an under tapped national asset that is ripe for mobilization. Building a vibrant ICT ecosystem, as envisioned by the DICT leadership, requires less capital and infrastructure than hard industries and can cater to a global market.
The government, business sector, and the academe must learn to work in partnership through consultative venues that share information, expertise, and best practices that would guide our policy leaders to address impeding policy gaps and create an incentivized regime that balances regulation, empowers innovative endeavors, and boosts competitiveness.
Let us help strengthen a culture of innovation in our country not just to help our businesses grow but to uplift the lives of the Filipinos.
In the end, we look forward to how the private and government sectors will strengthen the partnership and transcend physical and industry boundaries to build on the momentum of growth and harness digital innovations that will promote the inclusive growth of all Filipinos.
This article was originally published in BusinessWorld.