In a change of stance, DOST now supports creation of DICT

With just about one and a half years left in the term of Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, the government appears finally ready to embrace the formation of a Department of ICT (DICT).

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It can be recalled the DICT almost became a reality in 2012 when the Senate passed on final reading a bill creating the ICT department. A counterpart bill from the House of Representatives was also approved on the same year under the sponsorship of Taguig representative Sigfrido Tinga.

However, President Aquino, who was vocal in his opposition in the creation of the DICT, did not sign the bill until the proposed law lapsed with the adjournment at the 15th Congress in 2013.

Aquino’s disapproval of the DICT stemmed primarily from the objection raised by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) whose ICT-related agencies, particularly the Information and Communications and Technology Office (ICT Office) and the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), will be absorbed under the new ICT department.

This objection of the DOST, whose power and influence grew in the Aquino administration under Secretary Mario Montejo, a brother-in-law of Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa, effectively spelled the death knell for the DICT.

This intransigence did not, however, prevent legislators from attempting to pass DICT bills in Congress. The latest such try came from an Aquino ally, Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, who filed his DICT proposal last March 2014.

But the DOST seems to have had a change heart and is now throwing its support in the creation in the new department, according to DOST undersecretary and ICT Office executive director Louis Casambre.

In an interview, Casambre said the proposed DICT is a more apt body in today’s environment as it is rather difficult for a research and development-oriented agency like the DOST to deploy and enforce significant ICT reforms in the country.

He said the DICT should be more like the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) or the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) which have line agencies that carry out government policies and provides services to the public.

For instance, Casambre said the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) cannot be put directly under the DOST since the powerful telecom regulatory body exercises operational functions that is incompatible with an R&D agency such as the DOST.

“We’d like to point out, however, that we’re changing our position on the creation of the DICT not just for the sake of creating a DICT. It’s because we want a relevant agency that will be responsive to the needs of the ICT industry,” he said.

Casambre, meanwhile, said the implementing rules and regulations for the TV White Space have already been completed, clearing for the formal roll-out of the wireless technology in the country.

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