Blog: For stronger voice on policy development

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By Atty. Jocelle Batapa-Sigue Having been challenged to become a change agent in my home country by General Colin Powel, Chairman of Eisenhower Fellowships during the closing ceremony in Philadelphia last week, I have vowed to help strengthen the voice of the ICT sector in terms of policy advocacy. As this year?s Eisenhower Fellow of the Philippines, I have observed and ascertained how very engaged and empower the citizenry of the US in terms of policy promotion, and how important policies are in ensuring the growth of any industry. I envision the day when ICT programs in the Philippines are not mere sign posts of an administration but something that is sustainable and mainstreamed for the next 50 years, thereby effecting a significant impact to our country?s economic status. My plan is to help create a strong and concerted community of advocates for urgent and relevant policy reforms information and communications technology (ICT) as well as introduction of new ones to ensure a dynamic and sustainable ecosystem that will lead to a highly competitive, citizen centric, entrepreneurial and knowledge-based economy for the Philippines. This would entail the consolidation of all the voice of all stakeholders in the ICT sector, such as the ICT and ICT-enabled industries, entrepreneurs and practitioners, academe and training institutions and professionals, local and regional ICT councils and organizations, and other organizations promoting ICT as a tool for governance, education, business development, job generation, entrepreneurship, investment creation, among others. Policy advocacy and institution works at the very core of ensuring a sense of permanency and stability side by side a constantly resilient socio-economic and business environment. One of the issues which emerged during my meetings with top-level companies in the US was the need for a stable and reasonable policy environment for a country. As a principle of good governance, policy development must be consultative, participatory and inclusive. In the Philippines, there is a great tendency for top-to-bottom approach in policy-making and this kind of approach is not conducive for ICT policies where the major stakeholders who are adept with the trends and issues are mostly found outside of government. In the list of priority policies is the creation of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), which bills have already been approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives and awaiting for presidential imprimatur. The two other equally important bills waiting to be signed are on data privacy and cybercrime. These bills are very urgent in the light of the latest BSA Global Cloud Computing Scorecard which provides a roadmap for the initiatives and policies that countries should take to ensure that they reap the full economic and growth benefits. The individual elements of the scorecard are critical to economic growth and job creation especially in the context of cloud computing because the cloud provides a positive multiplier opportunity. Executing on these policies will promote innovation. These include policies ensuring privacy, promoting security, battling cybercrimes, protecting intellectual property, ensuring data portability and the harmonization of international rules, promoting free trade, and establishing the necessary IT infrastructure. Another set of policies that is important to the development of the Philippine brand in ICT are those that actively support and nurture the ability of Filipinos to start business, particularly by encouraging the creation of incubation programs with entrepreneurial support and mentorship, marketing and funding, and incentivizing private initiative leading to the creation of successful start-ups. Finally, I wish to promote key policies that will systematically address and provide solutions to the current perception of the Philippines in terms of starting a business. The International Finance Corporation of the World Bank recently ranked economies on their ease of doing business, from 1 ? 183. A high ranking on the ease of doing business index means the regulatory environment is more conducive to the starting and operation of a local firm. This index averages the country’s percentile rankings on 10 topics, made up of a variety of indicators, giving equal weight to each topic. The rankings for all economies are benchmarked to June 2011. The Philippines is ranked No. 20 or 24 countries in the Asia-Pacific Region. Below us are the countries of Cambodia, Micronesia, Lao-PDR and Timor-Leste. The Philippines is 136th of 183 countries ranked all over the world, and 158th, particularly in starting a business and 133rd in protecting foreign investments. The current policy environment of the Philippines on ICT in the last two decades has seen constant changes of the strategies and support system for the ICT sector every time a new administration comes in. While much of the growth of the ICT industry has been private-sector driven, I noted that the strong support of government in a national long term digital strategy and the provision of a dynamic business ecosystem, where policy is a vital part- are keys to sustaining the growth of the Philippine economy with ICT as a major driver. My interaction with both Filipino and IT professionals in Silicon Valley and other parts of the US has reinforced her belief that a vibrant and sustainable collaboration between the public and the private sectors, as well as the academe, is important in leading change. Another important learning was the stories of Filipino IT entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley who, given the conducive ecosystem and the much needed mentoring operated under the culture that encourages failures and risk-taking as ingredients to success. The NICP and many ICT national organizations believe that the DICT is the platform that will accelerate the country?s development relative especially to other Asian nations which has long established their respective ministries for ICT. We now have a unique opportunity that Filipino nation is now facing and that is the fact that both houses of the 15thCongress, or the Senate and the House of Representatives have approved the bill creating the DICT. This convergence has never happened in the last decade of the pendency of the DICT bill. The author is the chair of the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines (NICP) and the 2012 Eisenhower Fellow for the Philippines ]]>

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